Bring a Health Advocate With You When Using Health Care

Do this as much as you can; especially for life changing health care. After surviving cancer, this is my number one piece of advice to anyone. It will save your life as it did mine. And I believe this one approach would drastically improve our perception of the quality of our health system. (No, not more money) And this isn’t just my advice, Consumer Reports on Health agrees to (April 2015 issue page 2). CRoH reports that it is “… one of the keys to a safe and comfortable experience.” What is a health advocate? Ideally this person is a good listener and “… has the confidence to raise concerns and the ability to make firm but polite requests.” Since they are not the patient, they may be less affected by emotions that affect our ability to process the information we are told.

11% of People Picking Up Hospital Based Infections Die

Staying out of the hospital is more important today than ever before. Hospitals are breeding grounds for antibiotic resistant infections; themselves a product of humanity’s overly enthusiastic use of antibiotics. Consumer Reports on Health reports in its February 2015 issue (page 9) that 650,000 patients develop an infection from visiting a hospital. Of that number, 75,000 die as a result. “That’s more than 12 times the number of Ebola deaths worldwide as of December 2014.”

May 11, 2016 Update:

“There are 220,000 cases of hospital-associated infections each year in Canada resulting in 8,000 deaths.” UCalgary Alumni Magazine Spring | Summer 2016, page 9.

The problem is worse in Canada. Adjusted for population, Canada has 3.09 times the number of infections than the USA. Deaths resulting from the infections is approximately the same.

Death from Health Related Administrative Errors is 10x Rate of Automobile Accidents

Administrative errors made when managing your health caused 10 times the death from car crashes in the US at 440K deaths per year. As a cancer graduate, this is near and dear to my heart.

I have personally experienced administrative errors in Canada and they are alive and well. In my particular circumstance, they had forgotten to tell me that I had been diagnosed with cancer.  For my surgery, I circled the part being operated on with a marker and got a “that’s a very good idea” from the attendant. When my son was in one of the top hospitals in Canada, we corrected at least 3 administrative errors since there were lag times between when the doctor entered notes into the computer system and when the nurse visited.

In the USA, Consumer Reports is asking Americans to send a letter to their representative in support of a National Patient Safety Board (similar to the National Transportation Safety Board & the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). Follow link here to find a suggested letter:

SafePatientProject.org/patientsafetyboard

What can you do as a patient?  Try to bring to all your appointments a second pair of eyes and both of you take good notes, ask lots of questions and do your research. For the hospital, this person will be your advocate since there will be a lot of activity. If you don’t have such a person, you might want to think about hiring a nurse to help you out.  More important than a good doctor (a nice to have) is an administratively efficient medical team since even with a good doctor a small mistake by anyone on the team could kill you. Remember, they are human too and not infallible.