Many people never give much thought to health care quality. We want to trust that hospitals and health care providers deliver safe and effective services. But things can go wrong in any hospital, and at some hospitals, errors occur more often than at others.
Consider these facts:
- On average, a hospital patient is subject to at least one medication error per day — a wrong drug, at the wrong time, or by the wrong method (such as giving a drug by needle instead of by pill).
- Between 44,000 and 98,000 people die in hospitals each year because of preventable medical errors.
- Only 15% of hospitals are fully computerized, with a central database to track allergies and diagnoses.
Most hospitals are inspected by the government and other organizations to make sure they perform at an acceptable level. But still there is a wide range of quality among them. To err is human, so even a hospital with a great reputation can make mistakes. And hospitals that make terrible mistakes are not necessarily shut down or penalized.
To make sure you are getting the best care possible in the hospital, you should:
- Learn about health care quality and why it is important.
- If possible, choose a hospital that is known to provide high-quality care for your treatment.
- Look out for yourself (or your loved one) by being alert and asking questions.
Even if the choice of hospital is limited, knowing about health care quality means you are better able to advocate for yourself or a loved one when in the hospital.
All of this may seem scary, but the more you know, the better.