If it’s not patient- and family-focused healthcare, it’s not safe healthcare.    


A quick guide for patients and families

Patient- and family-centered care — we like to call it putting patients and families 1st — is acknowledged by most healthcare experts as offering the best and safest outcomes in the hospital setting. It places the focus where it should be: on the needs and preferences of patients and on the unique support role of caregiving family members. For this to work, however, patients and families need to have the right information and healthcare providers need to follow certain principles related to this standard of care. We’ve collected these principles in the quick guide below. We call them the 3 R’s for Safer  Care Now™.

The Center for Patient Protection

3 Rs For Safer Care Now!


1.    Know Your Rights

Specific rights of patients and families have become universal in the modern hospital setting. They are the keys to safer care and successful outcomes. If you are a patient, you have the right to expect:

  • To be involved in your care and the decisions that affect you.
  • To know the name and professional designation of everyone who is performing care for you. More
  • To give consent (or withhold it) about medication, tests and treatment, after being fully informed by the appropriate healthcare professional about the specific risks and benefits to you.
  • To have family members present during rounds and in all phases of care decision-making, and to have them advocate on your behalf as a patient, if you so wish.  More 
  • To be informed about any changes in your condition or any harm or medical errors that occur, including “near misses” that were prevented by timely intervention.
  • To be listened to attentively when you have any concerns, and to have those concerns fully and promptly addressed.
  • To be treated with dignity and respect in all phases of care and by all healthcare professionals and hospital employees.
  • To have timely access to your medical records and to have their privacy safeguarded.

There is a saying some of the best healthcare professionals like to quote in describing the role of the patient. It is: “Nothing about me without me.” You and your family are full partners in every aspect of your care. You are entitled to have your rights to safe, informed and respectful care followed by everyone connected with your hospitalization. Speak up and remind them if you feel this is not happening.


2.   Know the Risks Involved With Your Care

Safe care can never be taken for granted. Wise patients and families make themselves aware of the risks of hospital care so that they can reduce the chances of an adverse event. They also make sure that healthcare professionals are doing everything possible to deliver safe care.

  • Medical errors and infections happen every day in hospitals. They claim thousands of lives, leave millions injured and add billions of dollars to the costs of our healthcare systems. They are the third leading cause of death in both the United States and Canada. More 
  • Most of these deaths and injuries are avoidable. They involve medication errors, falls, blood clots, pressure ulcers and surgery blunders.
  • Hospital-acquired infections are a big killer. In the U.S., as many as 100,000 patients die every year from infections they got in the hospital. Canada has one of the worst records for managing hospital-acquired infections of all industrialized nations, according to the World Health Organization.
  • Vigilance on the part of patients and families is an essential medical tool to prevent injury, or worse, in the hospital setting. Make your care team aware that you know about the dangers of hospital harm.  Ask what they’re going to do to keep you safe.
  • Google the patient safety record of the hospital and check out any patient safety scores. But remember, what hospitals disclose doesn’t always present the full picture. More
  • Search for information about key doctors delivering your care.
  • Make sure every healthcare professional sanitizes their hands before and after contact with you. The same for family members.
  • Research worldwide has shown proper hand hygiene practices to be one of the best ways to combat hospital harm and cut hospital infection rates. MoreThere is no excuse for anyone cutting corners here, because it is cutting corners with your life.
  • Make sure you sanitize your hands often.  Avoid touching your face (especially your mouth, nose and eyes) as much as possible.

A safe patient is an informed patient. Hospitals perform miracles every day. But too many fail to prevent breakdowns in safety and care that can lead to devastating outcomes. Being alert to the risks can improve your chances of receiving the care you need instead of the harm you want to avoid.



3.   Know How to Respond During Crisis Events

Things can go wrong for anyone, of any age, or in any state of health, during their hospitalization. You need to know what to do if it does.

  • Patients and families bring a unique body of expertise to the bedside that no healthcare professional can match. You and your family are experts on you. Have confidence in that life-long experience in determining whether you think something is wrong.
  • Most important of all: If you see something that doesn’t look right or feel right, say something.
  • As a patient or family member, you are entitled to have any matters you raise about quality of care and safety taken seriously. If you tell your care team that you are concerned about signs of a deteriorating condition, a medical error, or the onset of an infection, ask if they recorded that in the medical chart.  Ask to see what was written and what is being done about it. Patients always have a right to see what is in their chart.
  • Make sure you keep a journal about your concerns and who you talked with about them. Photos and videos are also good records to have. Medical literature shows that critical information involving adverse events is often left out of the patient’s chart.
  • Talk to every member of your care team until you get the kind of response you think is necessary.
  • Ask if the hospital has a rapid response protocol or Code H (for help) that allows patients and families to urgently summon specially trained members of the healthcare team to deal with a worrisome or acute change in the patient’s clinical condition.   More
  • Find out how to make a complaint to the hospital’s administration in the event that you’re not getting the results you want on the floor or with the current healthcare team. More…You should make sure you have this information before a serious situation arises. Times of stress, crisis or exhaustion are never the best occasions to search through hospital websites.
  • Always be clear in expressing your concerns and respectful in the way you present them. But don’t back down.
  • The most heart-wrenching words from any patient or family are “I couldn’t get anyone to listen to me” before tragedy struck. Too many families are haunted by the feeling that they did not do enough at the time when it might have made a difference. The Center for Patient  Protection hears their stories every day. Take a look at our snapshots of hospital harm.  These thoughts are written in the words of patients and families still devastated by events that should have been prevented. Don’t be one of them.

The time to act is before irreversible damage or injury occurs. The best advocate for the patient in any hospital is the patient and/or family. You need to keep the harm out of hospital care by being proactive at the first sign of concern.

We believe if it’s not patient- and family-focused healthcare, it’s not safe healthcare.    

Patients and families around the world, along with leading hospitals and medical schools, have found our 3Rs for Safer Care to be a valuable tool to enhance patient safety. We hope you find this information helpful.  You can find more details on our site about the issues raised here.  


What Patients and Families Can Teach Hospitals About Avoiding Harm (Published in The Huffington Post)