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 to help.

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 617-667-4423.

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, please ask.

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.

Related Links

  • Quality and Safety