THE STARTING POINT FOR ACTION
The Center for Patient Protection is the champion of patients and families struggling with medical errors and related emotional harms, and of capturing their experiences to improve patient safety for everyone.
Founded by Kathleen Finlay following her mother’s widely publicized ordeal involving avoidable medical errors and shocking breakdowns in care, The Center for Patient Protection gives voice to the countless experiences of patients and families around the world who are caught in the grip of avoidable medical errors and the emotional harms they produce. Medical errors in the hospital setting are the third leading cause of death in the United States and Canada; they leave millions more injured and emotionally traumatized and add unnecessary billions to the costs of healthcare systems.
A safe patient is an informed patient. In healthcare, having the right information can mean the difference between life and death. What few patients and families know is that medical errors and infections in the hospital setting are the third leading cause of death in the United States and Canada. Taking hundreds of thousands of lives each year, hospital harm claims more lives in both countries than strokes, Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, kidney disease and automobile accidents combined. You’ve heard plenty about those causes of death over the years. Chances are you’ve heard very little about hospital harm. Yet in the U.S., studies have shown that one-in-three patients will face a mistake during their hospitalization, which can range from a medication error or a fall to a surgical blunder or hospital-acquired infection. Some of these mistakes can be corrected; some have more lasting consequences. Some lead to permanent disability, which was the case with the mother of The Center’s founder. And some lead to death.
Many patients and families we have spoken with over the years have expressed the shared feeling that if only they had known about the risks of hospital harm, they would have been more vigilant, more questioning and more engaged. Too many family members have found themselves haunted by remorse and anger that they were not better informed and more persistent in demanding the attention a loved one required. Don’t let you or your family be among them.
Learn about the risks that can face a patient in the hospital. Understand your rights to be fully engaged in your care or in a loved one’s. Know what to do if harm occurs. Explore the issues on our website. Follow the links to recommended resources and further reading. View the videos we have collected. Above all, don’t take anything for granted. Being a safe patient, or a caregiving family member, in a hospital today can be a full-time job. Know the toll it can take. Be prepared for the challenge that lies ahead.
For the most part, our hospitals are marvelous places of healing and care. Just be aware that things can go wrong. Being informed can help reduce that risk.
A safe patient is an engaged patient. In fact, patient and family engagement is considered the gold standard in safe hospital care. It puts the patient at the very center of the care team. It recognizes that he or she has the right to be informed and consulted about every phase of care and to be treated with respect and compassion. It supports the vital role that families play when a loved one is hospitalized and it structures hospital policies, like unrestricted visiting hours, to reflect that reality.
To stay safe, patients and families need to be vigilant, ask questions and be ready to act if things don’t seem right. True patient and family engagement has consistently been shown to contribute to more positive outcomes for patients and families. You should look on the provider’s website for more information about where it stands on both patient-centered care and patient and family engagement.
Keep a comprehensive journal of your hospital stay, or your loved one’s, from start to finish. If you’re a family member, make sure you have it with you while visiting. Make detailed notes about the care that is being provided, as well as any significant conversations and interactions with healthcare professionals or hospital administrators. Always make sure to get their name and occupation or position in the hospital. Medical records (which include, for example, doctor’s orders, progress notes, medication administration charts and test results) don’t always tell the whole story when it comes to hospital harm. Vital information may be left out. If you have your own accurate record, that can help in forcing proper disclosure and accountability. Make sure you know about the provider’s complaint process and the means of escalating concerns if you feel you are not being listened to or signs of deterioration are occurring in the patient’s condition without adequate explanation or attention.
Your engagement as a patient or family member is key to keeping safe. We have created a number of tools and resources on this site to help you in that mission. You may wish to look at our take on what patients and families want in their hospital experience. This is what we have been consistently told by patients and families around the world. It is also the cornerstone of hospital practices that are patient and family engagement-friendly.
But even if you’re not a patient or a family member, you have a stake in stopping this deadly, and costly, epidemic of harm. One way or another, we all pay the costs of medical errors — as patients and families, consumers, employers and taxpayers. If we’re lucky, we’ll just pay in higher health insurance premiums and increased taxes. Medical errors in hospitals add tens of billions of dollars to healthcare bills every year. Some actuarial experts have put the total figure, including direct and indirect costs, at closer to one trillion dollars annually. But the sad fact is that too many of us pay for this avoidable epidemic with much more than higher insurance premiums and tax bills. We pay for it with the lives of our loved ones and the devastation of our families.
Take a look at our projects and causes. Become a champion of patient safety yourself. Let us know how you would like to help. If you have a story about medical harm, consider sharing it. Help promote our campaign to make Patient Protection 1stSM on your website or blog, or on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Tell us about your ideas to end the epidemic of hospital harm and how we can improve our message.
Together, we can shine a disinfecting spotlight where it belongs: on the devastation caused by the epidemic of hospital harm and the steps needed to end it — starting with what works best for patients and families, and by making Patient Protection 1stSM in every aspect of care.
A safe patient is a protected patient. But you need to take steps as a patient or family member to ensure that protection.
Let your healthcare professionals know that you expect them to follow every means to keep you safe. Ask questions and speak up if you have any doubts about what is happening. If you see something or feel something that does not seem right, say something.
Knowing some key realities of hospital care today can help you or a family member to minimize the risk of harm. The first, which many patients and families do not know, is that medical errors and infections occur in hospitals every day. They claim hundreds of thousands of lives in the United States and Canada each year and leave many times that number injured. In fact, hospital harm is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and Canada. Most of this harm is avoidable.
You need to be especially alert to the risk of infections in hospitals (which take more than 100,000 lives among U.S. and Canadian patients every year), as well as the dangers of falls, pressure ulcers, surgical mishaps and medication errors. Most hospitals know what the best practices are for reducing these risks. You may wish to have a discussion with your clinical care team members about what they are doing to minimize them in your case. You can find more information below.
We have provided a number of resources, including videos, on this site to help keep patients protected and to help families and providers make patient protection first. Here are some other helpful links.
You can also check out our Ten Reasons for Making Patient Protection 1stSM, which sets out the kind of care you are entitled to expect and the best providers always deliver.
When it comes right down to it, no patient or family can ever be expected to know all the steps that can and should be taken in their care; but they can and should expect that healthcare workers and professionals do and will. Nor can they know all the evidenced-based recommendations and best practices that should be followed for their safety; but they are entitled to rely upon providers and professionals to follow them.
Making sure that more patients and families insist upon a safer healthcare culture, and more providers respond to that call, is the driving force behind the creation of The Center for Patient Protection and its campaign to make Patient Protection 1stSM.
The definitive guide for patients and families and a powerful learning tool for healthcare providers and clinicians looking to reduce medical errors and risks in this critical area of patient care.
What do patients and families want when it comes to healthcare, and, especially, during a hospital stay? The Center for Patient Protection believes that is a question that needs to occupy the attention of more healthcare providers and professionals.
We spoke with patients and families around the world, sought the views of renowned experts, and studied thousands of pages of patient safety literature in the field. When it comes right down to it, what patients and families want is really quite simple. Above all, they want patient safety, first, last and always. (MORE)
(Published in The Huffington Post) On a late Sunday night one recent long weekend, I was urgently contacted by a family who was distressed over the treatment their elderly father was receiving in the hospital. I operate an online outreach clinic for patients and families through The Center for Patient Protection. It has helped thousands over the years navigate their way toward safer care and deal with the emotional trauma of medical errors when they occur. (MORE)
Why Patients and Families Need Patient Protection 1stSM
Reason # 10
It’s not just a patient in that bed. It's a sacred trust.
Reason # 9
Hospital-acquired infections never send a calling card before they show up in a patient’s room. But patients and families will always know after they’ve arrived.
(Published in The Huffington Post) Kindness and compassion have been shown to produce positive outcomes in the hospital setting. So why do so many patients and families say it was missing in the care they received? (MORE)
The Center is guided in everything we do by what we call The Lorraine Finlay Healing Healthcare Virtues℠ of Prudence, Hope, Respect, Compassion, Patience, Diligence, Integrity, Openness, Fairness, Kindness towards all. They are named after the mother of The Center's founder, who experienced more documented medical errors during her six-month hospitalization than any patient in the history of patient safety literature. These are the values that personal experience, research and conversations with patients and families around the world have told us are pivotal in delivering safer, more affirming care. Read full story...