Patient Safety: Tips for Partnering with Your Doctor

When you—or a loved one—need health care, doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals provide medical care and work to keep you safe and free from harm. They can do that even better when patients and their families act as partners in that care:

  • Patients should ask questions about the care they are receiving
  • Patient families should air concerns about possible treatments and diagnoses

Doctors and other health care professionals welcome that, as do many patients and families. According to a recent study by National Patient Safety Foundation and Institute for Healthcare Improvement:

  • Most respondents believe that, while health care providers are chiefly responsible for patient safety, patients and their families also have a role to play
  • Nearly half of those who perceived that an error had occurred brought it to the attention of medical personnel or other staff at the health care facility
  • When asked what caused the medical error they experienced, people identified, on average, at least seven different factors

What patients and others can do to make medical care safer

The National Patient Safety Foundation says patients and their allies can do the following to ensure patient safety during medical care:

  • Ask questions about risks and benefits of any medical recommendations made by a health care provider
  • Don’t go to the hospital or doctor visits alone. Take a friend, family member, or anyone you can trust as an ally
  • Be clear on how and why to take your medications, and their names
  • Understand the action plan for your care. If you don’t understand something, ask
  • Repeat what clinicians tell you in your own words. That way, it’s clear you understand
  • Arrange recommended lab tests to be handled before a doctor’s visit, so you and your doctor can discuss the results
  • Determine who is in charge of your care, because many organizations have a large number of health care professionals

Patient safety is everyone’s responsibility, and together we can make health care safer.