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Memo from Bruce R. Pfaff

After recent unhappy hospital experiences with a family member and reviewing a wonderful article by Sumathi Reddy in The Wall Street Journal January 10, 2017, I have some thoughts on obtaining good medical care and protecting family members who are being treated.

You have the right to be fully informed about the proposed treatment and any options. While this seems obvious, the options are often not presented and not discussed.

You have the right to fire the doctor assigned to you. If you come in through the emergency room, are admitted, and are assigned a doctor who doesn't come when he is supposed to and who doesn't respond to a nurse's paging, you can and should fire that doctor. Few people know this, few people act on this. In some hospitals there may not be another doctor of that same specialty which presents added problems for the patient or family member. However, being under the "care" of a doctor who is unresponsive or doesn't show up is an invitation for disaster.

Make out a list of questions that you have between doctor or nurse visits so you don't forget anything. If you are in the hospital as a patient, you are out of sorts, your brain is likely to be fuzzy and you will be exhausted. If you are a family member with someone in the hospital, the same things will likely be true. Make a list, ask questions and get answers. If answers are not readily available, ask who will provide them and when. If answers or the doctor is not forthcoming, nursing staff have the authority and duty to go up the chain of command to protect their patient. Invite them to do so when appropriate.

Don't waste your healthcare provider's time with chit chat. While you might want to tell the doctor or nurse what a wonderful party you just went to or T.V. show you just saw, that is getting in the way of your getting proper medical care. Healthcare providers are busy and have many competing obligations on their time. Make sure that you are focused on your medical conditions and needs so that they will be focused as well. There are only so many minutes in a day.

Bring the bottles of all medications you are taking to the hospital or a doctor's visit unless you have a complete and accurate list. This includes herbals. Make sure those treating you know exactly what you are taking and how often so they can assess drug interaction problems, etc.

Be gracious and thankful for good care. Good care doesn't happen every day and is usually the result of skill and diligence. Don't take good care for granted. Praise those who provide it!

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