Patient Safety Awareness Week

Ask questions, get involved, and become a partner with your health care provider to Navigate Your Health-Safely, is this year’s theme of Patient Safety Awareness Week, March 2-8.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), Bureau of Health Care Services (BHCS), joins with the National Patient Safety Foundation in urging consumers to take an active role in their health care.

Diagnostic error is the focus of this year’s annual education and awareness campaign.

“Whether you’re visiting the doctor for a routine exam or entering the hospital for major surgery, as a patient, do so with careful planning, a lot of communication with your provider, and become an active participant in your medical care,” said LARA Deputy Director Shelly Edgerton.

With more than 12,000 diseases according to the World Health Organization (and more emerging), conditions and symptoms are often hard to distinguish.

Diagnosis is challenging and the health care systems are complex.

Experts estimate that up to one in every 10 diagnoses is wrong, delayed, or missed completely and that, collectively, diagnostic errors may account for 40,000-80,000 deaths per year in the U.S.

To help get the right diagnosis, don’t be afraid to speak up, officials said.

Doctors need to hear from their patients to make an accurate diagnosis. This can be difficult sometimes in the doctor-patient relationship.

Consumers should feel free to ask questions whenever they see a doctor, nurse, pharmacist or other health care provider; are preparing for a medical test or procedure; are in the emergency room or at the doctor’s office.

Ask your provider: “What could be causing my problem?” “What else could it be?” “When will I get my test results and what should I do to follow up?” Always let your health care provider know if there’s something you don’t understand.

Additional ways of getting involved in your health care to help prevent errors in a diagnosis are:

– Read and get informed about your medical problem, tests you’ll be having, or diagnosis you receive.

– Know how and when to follow up with your provider if symptoms persist, change, worsen or don’t respond as expected to treatment. Your life just might depend on it.

– Keep good track of your health records: copies of test results, names and dosages of prescribed medications, and office visit and hospital discharge instructions.

– Be clear and accurate when you explain your medical concerns to the provider.

– Try and tell your information directly to each provider personally rather than a nurse or technician.

Edgerton also emphasized the importance of taking advantage of recommended health screening tests.

“Identifying potentially serious health issues early-on is key,” said Edgerton. “Patients who don’t take advantage of recommended health screenings could delay a possible diagnosis or increase the risk for complications down the road.”

The Bureau of Health Care Services mission is to protect, preserve and improve the health, safety and welfare of Michigan’s citizens through the licensing and regulation of health professionals, health facilities and long-term care facilities.

The bureau is designed to make the regulatory system simple, fair and efficient while at the same time protecting Michigan’s vulnerable population.