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The Commonwealth Fund, and organization who provides grants to improve health care policies practices based on independent research, completed their own studies in the years 2004, 2006, 2007 & 2010 where they compared the United States to six other industrialized countries (New Zealand, the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and Germany) on measures on health care performance: quality, efficiency, access to care, equity, and the ability to lead long, healthy, productive lives.

The United States placed dead last, significantly due to the absence of universal health care. Even when not considering the access of care and/or equity, the United States still lacked behind most countries on most of the measures.

As a direct result, governing bodies are urging that hospitals implement moving toward patient center care, which is defined by the Institute of Medicine (IOM ) as “care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values and [ensures] that patient values guide all clinical decisions” (Institute of Medicine, 2001).

Although foreign to U.S health care practice, research shows that patient-centered care produces better results:

Patients are more likely to follow a plan of care when they help to design the plan.

  • Patients who receive patient-centered care report higher patient satisfaction scores.
  • Unfortunately, for most patients, patient-centered care is an anomaly.

In addition, here are 10 ways patients can participate in their health care and reduce medical errors:

  • Speak up! Never be afraid to speak up, ask a question, or challenge something that doesn’t look right. Odds are, if something doesn’t look right, it isn’t right.
  • Be informed. Use the internet to perform your own research. Read the info packet given to you at the hospital. Know your rights as a patient; they must be posted on every floor in the hospital.
  • Be flexible. Be aware of the hill you’ll die on and the ones you won’t. Acknowledge that the goal is always quality care.
  • Know the name of each provider. Know the role that provider plays (attending, resident or intern). Know who the decision makers are in your care (besides you).
  • Ask for a copy of the results of any procedure and diagnostic test and keep in your own medical file or binder.
  • Know your medications and dosing. Always have a list in your wallet. Question new medications, a change in dosage, or a pill that looks different from what you usually take.
  • Demand to be included in the patient plan of care. This includes being informed of any changes to the plan prior to the change. Remember the definition of patient-centered care: Nothing about me, without me.
  • Demand that all providers check the patient ID band before giving any medication, procedure, or patient interaction.
  • Demand that all providers wash their hands.
  • Be present for your loved one or have a loved one with you if you are the patient. This is the number one way you can ensure better care.


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