It's not something most of think about. Sure, we've heard horror stories about people having the wrong breast removed during a mastectomy, or someone having the wrong kidney removed. But these seem like very unusual occurrences. They can't possibly be common or no doctor would be able to practice medicine, right? Maybe not.
According to a study cited by AHC Media, which was conducted over a 32-month period, 7600 "wrong-patient" events occurred in 181 healthcare organizations. And in about 9 percent of those events, the patient suffered temporary or permanent harm, and even death.
Why is this happening?
The study cites many reasons for patient-identification error including: Increased patient volume, patients being treated by many providers in one visit (for example being sent from a doctor's office to x-ray and then perhaps to the lab after that) and IT systems that do not function, or share data, properly.
Is there a way you can help prevent patient-identification error? The best good defense is a good offense. Being aware that providers have many, many patients to see each day, and being proactive in your own care may mitigate confusion and help you from becoming a statistic.
How can I be proactive?
There are many ways you can help eliminate patient-error. Some suggestions include:
- When you check in, be sure to double check with the registrar. Ask your name to be repeated, and if you have a common name such as Jane Smith, or John Jones, ask them to verify your birth date so that you can be sure they have pulled the correct chart.
- If you are being given a shot or vaccine, ask the nurse to verify with you what she is injecting. Be certain it is something your doctor ordered for you. If a nurse appears with an injection you weren't aware of, don't be afraid to double check that your doctor actually ordered it for you.
- If you are in the hospital and are being given tablets or other medication, ask what they are and why they are being given to you. People make mistakes. And you want to be sure you are being given the Dilaudid you were prescribed, not your neighbor's Coumadin.
- When you are scheduled for an x-ray or lab work, be sure to ask the technician to confirm what test you are getting and why.
No healthcare provider wants to make a mistake--especially one that results in irreparable harm. By advocating for yourself, you are helping your provider give you the best care possible--which is a win/win situation for everyone involved.