Work as Partners with Patients and Families
In recent years, the medical community has been placing greater focus on how to make medical care in hospitals safe and how to reduce errors that could potentially harm patients. At Beth Israel Deaconess, nothing takes higher priority than the safety of patients.
Research on safe medical care has shown that the best results are achieved
when health care providers work as partners with patients and families to
promote safe care. We encourage you and your family, friends, and visitors
to play an active role in helping us to make sure that you receive care
that is as safe and effective as it can be. Here are some things you can do
1. Ask questions
Too often, patients are hesitant to ask questions. But keeping informed -
about your medical condition, about who is caring for you, about your
treatment plan - is one of the most important steps you can take to help us
give you the best possible care. If there are things you do not understand,
please ask. Never hesitate to ask a question or to ask the same question
more than once. If something doesn't seem right to you, please speak up.
2. Ask for an interpreter if needed
If you are not comfortable communicating in English for medical
conversations, or if you are Deaf or hard of hearing and use American Sign
Language or a certified Deaf interpreter, please ask us to provide an
interpreter when you are having important conversations with staff or when
you are having a medical test. Even if you speak English, you may find
that, during serious illness, it is easier for you to understand
information in your native language. We have interpreters on site who can
help patients communicate in Russian, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Cape
Verdean Creole, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Vietnamese, and American Sign
Language. Interpreters for other languages, as well as services at night
and on weekends, are arranged as needed, either in person or via telephone.
Interpreter services are provided to patients free of charge according to
the hospital's Interpreter Services Policy.
Sometimes patients depend on family members or friends to help them
communicate. While this may be satisfactory for day-to-day needs, we
encourage you to ask a professional interpreter when you are talking with
your health care team about your medical care.
Family and friends may have difficulty translating medical terms, and
confusion can result. If you need to reach an interpreter, please call
3. Remember that you are the most important member of your health care team
As a member of the team, it is important that you participate in your care
and that you make sure your voice is heard. You and your doctor should talk
about and agree on any important decision that concerns your health. You
may want to seek a second opinion about a particular diagnosis or
treatment. This is a common practice that is supported and encouraged by
all health care professionals. Also, many patients find it helpful to have
a family member or friend with them when they speak to health care
providers. Having a second set of eyes and ears can often mean better
understanding and communication between you and your health care team.
Speak out about anything that doesn't seem right to you or if you feel any
aspect of your care isn't going the way it should. If you need more
information on a health condition or treatment, please talk this over with
your doctor or nurse. Many patients also choose to consult resources at a
local library or on the Internet. If you wish, you may contact a resource
specialist with the Beth Israel Deaconess Learning Center to request
information about a health care topic, medication, or treatment. To contact
the Learning Center, call 617-667-9100.
4. Know who is providing your care
In today's hospitals, there are many people who provide care. We require
members of our staff to display their names and titles prominently on their
clothing, but sometimes it can be difficult for the patient to tell who is
who. Any time you are not clear about the identity of someone providing
care, please ask.
5. Help ensure medication safety
There is a lot you can do to help prevent medication errors. For example:
Make sure your doctor and those caring for you at the hospital have
complete information about all the medicines you take at home,
including prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, herbs,
vitamins, and supplements. Keep a list that includes the following
information about everything you take and share the list with all your
care providers: name of the medicine (or other substance), dose, how
frequently you take it, how long you've been taking it, why you take
it, who prescribed it, and the date and time of your most recent dose.
Please do not take medicine you may have brought with you without
clearing it first with your doctor. This includes prescription
medicines, non-prescription medicines, herbs, vitamins, and
supplements. These substances may cause serious reactions when combined
with medications your doctor has ordered.
Tell your doctor, and anyone who gives you medicine or performs medical
tests, about any allergic reactions you have had in the past to
medicines and to foods, especially shellfish.
Ask questions about your medicines. When someone gives you a medicine,
ask what it is and what it is for. It is important that you know your
medicines, including the name, purpose, dose, and side effects of each.
Report problems. Report any unusual symptoms to your nurse right away.
Your health care team will determine if what you are experiencing may
be related to a medication.
6. Make sure you have completed a Massachusetts Health Care Proxy
In Massachusetts, you can name a person to speak for you regarding your
health care if your doctor determines you are not able to express your
wishes yourself. The person is called a health care proxy (or a health care
agent). Having a health care proxy helps ensure that you will receive care
that is in keeping with your wishes and values.
7. Keep hands clean
Making sure everyone's hands are clean is the single best tool we have for
preventing infections that can occur in hospitalized patients. You will
notice members of our staff cleaning their hands either at the sink or
outside the room using waterless soap. Your visitors should also clean
their hands when they enter and leave your room. And you, the patient,
should always wash up after using the toilet or bedpan, and before eating
or drinking. If you need help getting to a sink or washing up in your bed,
8. Ask for help!
Please remember, during illness, you may be weaker than you think. This is
especially true if you've had surgery or another invasive procedure, or if
you are receiving a new treatment. It is very important that you have help
the first time you get out of bed following an operation or procedure. In
particular, we'd like you to feel comfortable asking for help when using
the bathroom. By providing you with this assistance, we can help prevent
falls. Patients may not want to "bother" the nurse, or they may feel that
they can make it on their own. In some cases, it's difficult to wait for a
nurse to answer a call for help. But if you fall while you are sick,
serious injury can occur. Please - unless your nurse says it is okay for
you to get up on your own - ask for help.
9. Make sure you have an identification band on your wrist or ankle
We provide all our patients with identification bands. Sometimes, they
become loose or fall off. If you lose your band, please ask for a new one.
10. Inform your visitors
Inform your visitors of important safety practices. These include:
Making sure visitors do not have contagious illnesses. Young children
especially should be kept at home if there is any chance that they have
a cold, flu, strep throat, or other contagious disease.
Cleaning hands before and after visiting.
Not adjusting side rails or soft restraints. If the side rails on the
bed are up, or if a soft restraint is in use, it is because the staff
feel the patient is at risk for injury. Visitors should never remove
these safety devices without talking with the nurse.
Quality and Safety