Breaking News
May 27, 2018 - Tree nut consumption linked to improved type 2 diabetes health
May 27, 2018 - Income and education gap causes racial differences in health behaviors, study shows
May 27, 2018 - Even at ‘Safe’ Levels, Air Pollution Puts Seniors at Risk
May 27, 2018 - Obstructive sleep apnea linked to thinning of calvaria, skull base
May 27, 2018 - Epigem’s Managing Director sets the bar for life sciences industry at VentureFest
May 27, 2018 - CPAP may reduce resting heart rate in prediabetic patients
May 27, 2018 - Study reveals striking disparities in health care access and quality across most nations
May 27, 2018 - The Yogi masters were right—meditation and breathing exercises can sharpen your mind
May 27, 2018 - SLU researcher aims to find solutions for diabetes patients at risk of hypoglycemia
May 27, 2018 - Scientists uncover the cause of insulin resistance in obesity
May 27, 2018 - $2.3 million NIH grant to support new project on oxytocin neurons and social behavior
May 27, 2018 - Less Driving Tied to Lower Cardiovascular Disease Risk
May 27, 2018 - Genetics Home Reference: LMNA-related congenital muscular dystrophy
May 27, 2018 - Long-term psychological study confirms time is the best medicine against homesickness
May 27, 2018 - Study explores if CPAP treatment can improve sexual QOL for sleep apnea patients
May 27, 2018 - Study investigates role played by brain in prosocial behavior
May 27, 2018 - New Guidelines Mean 1 in 3 Adults May Need Blood Pressure Meds
May 27, 2018 - Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Analysis: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
May 27, 2018 - Kids in tough neighborhoods head to ER more often
May 27, 2018 - Exercise alters brain’s dopamine system to help treat addiction, study finds
May 27, 2018 - Sepsis patients treated and released from ED for outpatient follow-up experience good outcomes
May 27, 2018 - Initiative cuts overuse of tests, treatments for bronchiolitis
May 27, 2018 - Study links ‘sleep spindles’ to memory reactivation
May 27, 2018 - Scientists develop new method to speed up genome evolution of baker’s yeast
May 27, 2018 - Sunscreen pills are fake says FDA
May 27, 2018 - Study finds increasing wealth gap between households of seniors and families with children
May 27, 2018 - Link between tuberculosis and Parkinson’s disease discovered
May 27, 2018 - Doctors call on health authorities for permission to provide stroke patients with life-saving treatment
May 26, 2018 - Couples who eat seafood-rich diet tend to get pregnant faster
May 26, 2018 - NIH summit presents recommendations to accelerate treatment development for Alzheimer’s disease
May 26, 2018 - Medication-related harm found to be common among older adults, but preventable
May 26, 2018 - Lunaphore and Vitro announce partnership to develop ISH protocols for RNA, DNA targets
May 26, 2018 - Cryoablation Efficacious for Cancer Pain, Review Finds
May 26, 2018 - Link between IBD and Parkinson’s might allow doctors to slow down condition
May 26, 2018 - Study finds fewer than 5% of low-income, urban mothers use prenatal vitamins before pregnancy
May 26, 2018 - California hospitals urge moms to favor breast milk over formula
May 26, 2018 - Most concussion patients do not receive follow-up care after hospital discharge, says study
May 26, 2018 - Lifetime risks of developing Alzheimer’s dementia vary by age, gender
May 26, 2018 - Researchers find novel ways to improve participation in clinical research
May 26, 2018 - Researchers develop methods for measuring free-base nicotine levels in e-cigarettes
May 26, 2018 - AHA: Preterm Birth Could Warn of Mom’s Future Heart Risks
May 26, 2018 - Some calories more harmful than others
May 26, 2018 - Study links cell size with commitment to division
May 26, 2018 - Researchers develop new, rapid blood test to detect liver damage
May 26, 2018 - Researchers discover cascade of immune processes linked to poor outcomes in aggressive breast cancer
May 26, 2018 - New research will use mathematics to solve mysteries in cell biology
May 26, 2018 - Proposed National Resilience Strategy to reverse catastrophic increases in ‘deaths of despair’
May 26, 2018 - Mice remain slim on burger diet
May 26, 2018 - BMC receives $13.5 million award to test methods for delivering childhood anxiety treatment
May 26, 2018 - ‘Right to Try Act’ will not benefit terminally-ill patients
May 26, 2018 - Study reveals novel statistical algorithm to identify potential disease genes
May 26, 2018 - Two genes play vital roles in malignant brain cancer
May 26, 2018 - Study explores link between groundwater lithium and diagnoses of bipolar disorder, dementia
May 26, 2018 - Researchers reveal stimulatory effects of myelin on young neural cells
May 26, 2018 - Small part of cellular protein that helps form long-term memories also drives neurodegeneration
May 26, 2018 - Four-legged friends can have heart issues, too
May 26, 2018 - Scientists create small, self-contained spaces inside mammalian cells
May 26, 2018 - Better Social Support Network Protects Black Men Against HIV
May 26, 2018 - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
May 26, 2018 - Burnout, depression can affect ophthalmology residents, study finds
May 26, 2018 - Latinos and African Americans more likely to experience serious depression than Whites
May 26, 2018 - Data from past epidemic could help improve response to future Ebola outbreaks
May 26, 2018 - Researchers provide insight into how the memory molecule limits brain plasticity
May 26, 2018 - OSU biologist describes ‘restoration ecology’ approach toward patient health
May 26, 2018 - New approach to study brown fat could aid in finding treatments for obesity
May 26, 2018 - UCI Center on Stress & Health receives NIH funding to develop digital health interventions
May 26, 2018 - Could More Fish in the Diet Boost Sex Lives and Fertility?
May 26, 2018 - NTU Singapore and SERI invent new scope to diagnose glaucoma
May 26, 2018 - Cancer cells co-opt pain-sensing ‘neural channel’ to increase tolerance against oxidative stress
May 26, 2018 - Study uncovers why pesticide exposure increases Parkinson’s disease risk in some people
May 26, 2018 - Study finds link between lead exposure and fertility rates
May 26, 2018 - Causes and treatment of acute heart failure vary by region, registry shows
May 26, 2018 - Delivery of standardized diabetes care could help achieve equitable health outcomes for all patients
May 26, 2018 - FDA authorizes marketing of OsteoDetect software for detecting wrist fractures
May 26, 2018 - HSE experts suggest new way of looking at infantilism
May 26, 2018 - Children and adolescents growing up in extreme societal conditions more likely to resort to violence
May 26, 2018 - New study puts forth most comprehensive tree of life for malaria parasites
May 26, 2018 - UVA researchers establish new guidelines for explorers of the submicroscopic world inside us
May 26, 2018 - Princeton Instruments and C-SOPS announce collaboration on innovative pharmaceutical technology
May 26, 2018 - New research shows why babies need to move in the womb
Problems with your hospital care? Speak up!

Problems with your hospital care? Speak up!

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

Doctors determined that he needed surgery that night, and luckily I was able to fly in and see him before he was wheeled away. “Take care of your mom if anything happens to me,” he said as my mom and I wept.

Thankfully, my dad made it through. But he had to spend 11 days recovering in the hospital, a place he now equates with prison.

One night, he suffered for five hours, desperately calling for help after his pain meds had run out. A nurse’s aide stationed in his room had fallen asleep.

“I called on the intercom so many times, and nobody showed up,” he recounts.

That was just one of the many failures in care that we encountered during my dad’s stay. Others included inconsistent nursing quality, waiting all day for doctors to respond to pages, insensitive communication of bad news, trying in vain to reduce noise levels so my dad could sleep, and so much more.

My job is to give you advice on health care and insurance issues. My mom is a registered nurse. Yet we both felt frustrated that we couldn’t make things better for my dad.

Unfortunately, this happens to a lot of people. “Everything you hear these days is about patient-centered care, this and that,” says Terry Bay, who owns a Casper, Wyo.-based business that provides advocacy services to older patients. But “we don’t live in a patient-centered health care environment.”

Today I’m going to offer advice for you in case you or a loved one lands in a hospital.

There are state and federal laws that cover, among other things, your rights to privacy, nondiscrimination, language interpretation and visitation, says Lois Richardson, vice president and legal counsel of the California Hospital Association.

But beyond legal protections, there are people you can talk to and steps you can take to improve your situation if you feel you’re not getting the care you deserve. And patients’ opinions do count.

“All hospitals increasingly are being scored and paid based on patient and family satisfaction scores,” says Rebecca Kirch, an executive vice president with the National Patient Advocate Foundation. “There is power in the people.”

That power starts with a few simple things.

First, make sure a spouse, child, family member or friend — anyone concerned for your well-being — can spend time with you in the hospital and be your advocate. You cannot do it by yourself while you’re in pain, medicated and not thinking clearly.

“It’s having someone else in your court, someone who can check in and make sure your questions are being answered,” says Dr. Rebecca Sudore, a geriatrician and palliative care physician at the University of California-San Francisco.

Before you or your advocate speaks to your nurse or doctor, write down your questions. Keep track of your glasses, hearing aids and dentures — the personal belongings that most often go missing in hospitals, Sudore says.

“How can someone speak up for themselves if they can’t see someone? Or can’t hear?” she asks.

When the time comes to ask questions — or express frustration — don’t be afraid to speak up. You have every right, even though it can feel intimidating to question your doctors or complain about your nurses.

“You can say, ‘No, I don’t want to go for that test. I want to speak to my daughter first,'” Bay says.

If you’re getting jostled out of sleep for a blood draw or blood pressure check in the middle of the night, ask your doctor the next day if it’s really necessary. Often, it can wait till early morning, says Julianne Morath, president and CEO of the Hospital Quality Institute.

“It’s up to us to put our own humanity back into decisions,” Sudore says.

But here’s where speaking up can get thorny.

Let’s say you don’t feel you’re getting adequate care or you’re unhappy with how you’re being treated. You can start with your nurse, but if that’s uncomfortable — perhaps because that nurse is the source of the problem — approach the charge nurse, who manages the staff in your unit.

You can also ask to talk to a hospital-based social worker, who can intercede or help you figure out who to talk to, Kirch says.

If that doesn’t help, take your complaints to the next level.

Every hospital that participates in the Medicare program — which is most — must have an ombudsman or patient rights advocate, Richardson says. My mom and I eventually complained to the patient rights advocate. It helped, and we wish we had done it sooner.

If you can’t go to the patient rights advocate yourself, “you can call them or ask your nurse to call them and have them come up to your room,” Richardson says. Hospitals must acknowledge patient complaints immediately, she says, and must respond in writing once they are resolved.

As part of this process, no matter whom you talk to, there are some phrases that can spur quick action, Kirch explains. One is “This doesn’t feel like quality care to me.” Another is “I see my loved one suffering.”

If you have a serious illness and you’re suffering from symptoms that aren’t being managed correctly, you can also request a consultation with a palliative care team. Palliative care isn’t only about end-of-life issues, it’s about quality of life, Kirch says.

Most large hospitals have a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains and others who can provide added support on top of the medical treatment you’re receiving, especially if you’re getting shuffled among medical specialties.

“They can help tremendously to fill in the blanks. … It can be pain management. It can be spiritual or psychological distress,” Kirch says. “The palliative care team treats the person beyond the disease.”

If you have done all that and still have concerns, Kirch’s organization has case managers who provide free, one-on-one support for patients. Call 800-532-5274 for more information or visit www.patientadvocate.org/help.php.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting you complain about every little thing. Be realistic. For instance, a hospital doctor may see up to 30 patients a day. So you might have to wait for your page to be answered unless you have a serious, potentially life-threatening problem, Sudore says.

“It may not be that you’re being ignored. It might be that someone has to figure out the competing priorities,” she says.

And don’t forget that your caregivers are human too, Morath advises. “They get tired, they get stressed,” she says. “Very often, just letting them know you’re not getting what you need and asking for their help … is a very powerful act.”

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles