Last week we broadcast a program called Patient Rights..It’s Up to You! I also posted a blog listing the ten “Musts”, things about which you must know when you or a loved one is admitted to a hospital. Other than completely understanding the terms and limits of your health insurance policy, perhaps the most important item in that list was suggesting that you are your own best advocate.
American hospitals do the best they can caring for sick patients in times of increasing fiscal restraint, government interference and costly regulation, and, for the most part they do an exceptional job providing an environment conducive to maintaining the highest standards of patient care possible. That said, however, there are problems that can occur during a hospital visit, and when those problems arise you must be prepared to advocate for yourself or your loved one.
While your physician should be your immediate and best advocate, the severe constraints of time imposed upon him or her by the system in which they have been forced to work are such that your “face to face” with them is limited. Thus, you must be prepared to make the most of the time that you have when they are free to speak with you. As we suggested on the broadcast, make a list of questions and concerns before-hand, if practicable, and send them on to the doctor so that he or she may be prepared to answer your questions. Find out when the doctor makes rounds so that you can be available, if you are not the patient, to have that precious time necessary to have your concerns addressed. Be insistent on having those concerns addressed, but be polite. Remember, if you want to kiss, you must first give a kiss!
If you are concerned that the physician or nurse will become upset with you if you are too “demanding” you must put those concerns aside; In this instance you are completely in the drivers seat. Most of the time, the nursing staff, the hospital administrative staff, and certainly your doctor will address those concerns immediately. No one, and I repeat NO ONE will withhold treatment or diminish the care necessary for your particular case. Doing so is an absolute and total breach of ethic, and the consequences of such actions can be dire for the parties involved.
Understand all the discharge instructions. The best time to ask the question is when the doctor or his representative is standing in front of you. Never leave the hospital not being sure what you have to do. Always ask if unsure!
In the final analysis, getting the answers to your questions, having your concerns addressed and making sure that you or the person about which you care gets the best hospital treatment is up to you and you alone. Be prepared, be informed, be timely, be polite but be very firm. You truly are your own best advocate.