To prevent healthcare errors, patients are urged to...

Everyone has a role in making healthcare safe. As a patient, you can make your care safer by being an active, involved and informed member of your healthcare team.

Through Speak Up,™ Rush North Shore Medical Center is working to promote patient awareness and encourage patient involvement in healthcare safety.

Speak Up™ is a program created by The Joint Commission and supported by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and healthcare organizations throughout the country.

Speak Up™ offers simple advice on how you can help make your healthcare experiences safer and better. Research shows that patients who take part in decisions about their own healthcare are more likely to get better faster.

Speak up if you have questions or concerns. If you still don’t understand, ask again.

•  Don’t be afraid to ask about safety. If you’re having surgery, ask the doctor to mark the area that is to be operated on.

•  Don’t be afraid to tell the nurse or the doctor if you think you are about to get the wrong medicine.

•  Don’t be afraid to tell a healthcare professional if you think he or she has confused you with another patient.

Pay attention to your care. Don’t assume anything.

•  Tell your nurse or doctor if something doesn’t seem right.

•  Expect healthcare workers to introduce themselves. Look for their identification (ID) badges. If you don’t see an ID badge, ask to see one.

•  Notice whether your caregivers wash their hands. Hand washing helps prevent infections. Don’t be afraid to remind a doctor or nurse to do this.

•  Know what time of the day you normally get medicine. If you don’t get it, tell your nurse or doctor.

•  Make sure your nurse or doctor checks your identification wristband and asks your name before he or she gives you medicine or treatment.

Educate yourself about your illness. Learn about the medical tests you get, and your treatment plan.

•  Learn about your condition. Good places to get information are from your doctor, your library, respected websites and support groups.

•  Write down what your doctor tells you.

•  Ask your doctor about the special training and experience that qualifies him/her to treat your illness.

•  Read all medical forms and make sure you understand before you sign them. If you don’t understand, ask for an explanation.

•  Make sure you know how to work any equipment that is being used in your care.

•  Before you leave the hospital, make sure you understand all discharge instructions.

Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate.

•  An advocate can ask questions that you may not think to ask.

•  An advocate can help remember details regarding your care.If needed, an advocate can speak up for you when you cannot speak up for yourself.

•  Ask your advocate to stay with you, even overnight, when you are hospitalized.

•  Go over the consents for treatment with your advocate before you sign them. Make sure you both understand exactly what you are about to agree to.

•  Make sure your advocate understands the type of care you will need when you get home. Your advocate should know what to look for if your condition is getting worse. He or she should also know who to call for help.

•  An advocate needs to understand the kind of care you want. Make sure your advocate knows what you want done about life support and other life-saving efforts if you are unconscious and not likely to get better.

Know what medicines you take and why you take them.

•  Understand why you need medication. Ask for written information about it, including brand and generic names. Ask about potential side effects.

•  Whenever you get a new medicine, tell your doctors and nurses about allergies you have, or negative reactions you have hadto other medicines.

•  If you are taking more than one medicine, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to take those medicines together. Do the same thing with vitamins, herbs and over-the-counter drugs.

•  Make sure you can read the handwriting on prescriptions. If you can’t read it, the pharmacist may not be able to either. Ask somebody at the doctor’s office to print the prescription, if necessary.

•  If you do not recognize a medicine, double-check that it is for you. Ask about medicines that you are to take by mouth before you swallow them. Read the contents of intravenous (IV) fluids. If you’re not well enough to do this, ask your advocate to do it.

•  If you are given an IV, ask the nurse how long it should take for the liquid to run out. Tell the nurse if it seems to be dripping too fast or too slow.

Use a hospital that has agreed to voluntary review for quality standards.

•  Rush North Shore Medical Center is accredited by The Joint Commission and voluntarily submits to a wide range of other quality and safety monitoring programs.

•  To find out whether a hospital is “accredited” go to Accredited means the hospital meets patient safety and quality standards. 

•  Ask about the hospital’s experience in taking care of people with your type of illness. How often does a doctor perform the procedure you need? What special care do they provide to help patients get well?

Participate in all decisions about your treatment.

•  You and your doctor should agree on exactly what will be done during each step of your care.

•  Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion. The more information you have about all the kinds of treatment available to you, the better you will feel about the decision you make.

•  Ask to speak with others who have had the same treatment or operation you may have to have. They may be able to tell you what to expect and what worked best for them.

•  Know who will be taking care of you, how long the treatment will last and how you should expect to feel.

•  Understand that more tests or medications may not always be better for you. Ask your doctor how a new test or medication will help.

•  Keep copies of your medical records from previous hospital stays and share them with your healthcare team. This will give them better information about your health history.

The goal of the SpeakUp program is to help patients become more informed and involved in their healthcare. Rush North Shore Medical Center is proud to support these efforts.