Hospitals Are Very Dangerous Places

As I wrote in my last post, hospitals are dangerous. Doctors often don’t believe the patient, don’t listen and screw up. There are nearly unlimited ways hospitals can make mistakes; I even can’t count how many times I’ve been harmed. You can’t just sit back, relax and say “oh, I’m sure they know what they’re doing, they’ll take care of everything.” Even with the best staff (unlikely) there are many opportunities to go wrong. To ensure your survival, you have to be very alert, aggressively on top of everything they’re doing and advocate until you get what you need. You should always have a loved one with you to help advocate and, if necessary, throw themselves in front of you to stop the most egregious errors. For each medical condition you have, your risk is multiplied. In very complex cases (like me) you have to assume they’ll mess up and adjust for that and insist they get it right. A study found that the ornery, demanding patients that the nurses hate live longer than nice, “compliant” patients; remember this.

Check out this story on CBS News about reducing medical errors. Dr. Donald Berwick runs the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and for two years he’s headed a new campaign to stop 100,000 unnecessary deaths by getting hospitals to adopt standard operating procedures. It wouldn’t let me embed the video, but there is a stunning interview video here wherein he says:

“Hospitals are very dangerous places. I don’t know how to explain this to the public in a way that doesn’t create too much fear. But they need to be realistic and the technologies that help you can also hurt you — and they do it every single day.”
Dr. Donald Berwick

Stay aggressive. Advocate. Survive.