Patients as Partners: Elevating Healthcare Safety

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Patients as Partners: Elevating Healthcare Safety

Sunday, 17 September 2023 | Dr Sangeeta Sharma

Patients as Partners: Elevating Healthcare Safety

September 17 marks Patient Safety Day, a global event uniting the healthcare community. This year's theme, 'Engaging Patients for Patient Safety,' underscores the vital role patients play in ensuring safer and more collaborative healthcare experience for all, says Dr Sangeeta Sharma

In the world of healthcare, keeping patients safe is a top priority. Patient safety is all about keeping you safe when you receive medical care. It's something that doctors, nurses, and patients themselves are all very concerned about and involves taking steps to make sure you don't get hurt while getting treatment. They do this by using safe practices, good communication, and by making sure everything in the healthcare system works smoothly. To achieve this, healthcare providers employ safe procedures, effective communication, and ensure the seamless functioning of every aspect within the healthcare system. Of course, there are challenges along the way. Making sure that you have access to reliable health information and improving health literacy are ongoing efforts.

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare and the journey towards ensuring the highest standards of care has led to a significant paradigm shift - engaging patients as active participants in their own healthcare.  There has been a growing recognition that patients possess unique insights into their own health, experiences, and concerns. You're not just a passive recipient of care but a vital part of your own safety and well-being. Here's how it works:

Knowledge is Power: Empowering patients with knowledge is a cornerstone of this approach. Informed patients can make better health decisions, understand treatment options, and assess risks. Healthcare providers are ensuring patients have access to accurate and simple information through educational materials, clear explanations, and digital health data sharing.

Discuss Medications: If prescribed medications, ask about their purpose, dosage, potential side effects, and interactions with other drugs or supplements you're taking.

Prepare ahead of Time & be punctual: Write down your symptoms, concerns, and questions. Be specific about your symptoms, when they started, and any changes you've noticed. List all medications, supplements, and allergies you have. Bring any relevant medical records, test results, or a list of previous diagnoses and treatments. Have your insurance information and identification ready if necessary. Arrive on time for your appointment and discuss follow-up appointments, tests, or referrals to specialists as needed. Understand what symptoms or changes should prompt you to seek immediate medical attention.

Open Communication: Be open and honest with your healthcare provider. Provide all relevant information. Share your concerns, lifestyle, and any recent life changes that may affect your health. If you don't understand something, ask questions for clarification.

Making Decisions Together: Instead of just being told what to do, you're encouraged to be a part of the decision-making process. You can ask questions, express your concerns, and work with your healthcare team to choose the best treatment for you. Discuss potential risks, benefits, and alternatives before a procedure or treatment and read informed consent form carefully and get clarifications, if required.  Repeat back instructions or treatment plans to confirm your understanding. This teamwork not only makes you feel more satisfied with your care but also reduces the chances of mistakes.

Speaking Up: Your voice matters. You can ask about hand hygiene, double-check your medications, and don't hesitate to speak up if something doesn't seem right. Your active involvement helps create a safer healthcare environment.

Technology's Role: Technology is playing a big role in this change. Electronic health records and patient portals allow you to access your medical information, track your health, and communicate securely with your healthcare team. Mobile health apps and wearable devices help you monitor your health, vital signs, track symptoms, in real-time. Using medication reminder apps or pill organizers help adhere to prescribed medication regimens.

Address Mental Health Issues, if any: If you have mental health concerns, don't hesitate to bring them up. Your emotional well-being is an important part of your overall health.

Ultimately, looking ahead, the future of patient safety depends on strengthening the partnership between healthcare providers and patients like you.

The writer is a Professor & Head, Neuropsychopharmacology, Institute of Human Behaviour & Allied Sciences (IHBAS) & President, Delhi Society for Promotion of Rational Use of Drugs (DSPRUD)

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