Get Healthy Carson City: Take a role in your health care

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

Did you know the first week of March is Patient Safety Awareness Week?

Patient safety is obviously the responsibility of doctors, nurses, and other health care providers, but patients themselves also have the responsibility for their own safety in a health care setting.

The National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) has an important piece of advice for patients: Ask questions early and often. Many people are afraid to bring up concerns they may have to their providers, or they may not want to ask questions about instructions or information they don’t understand. For some people, cultural factors make them stay quiet, because they feel like it might seem rude to question their doctor. Others fear asking questions will make them look stupid, they feel embarrassed, or they worry it will take up too much of the doctor’s time.

When it comes to your health, there are no stupid questions, and your doctor isn’t going to judge you, so don’t be afraid to clear up any questions while you have your provider’s attention.

In fact, speaking up could improve the safety and quality of care you receive.

As part of its “Ask Me Three” campaign, the NPSF recommends asking the following questions every time you see your health care provider:

What is my main health concern?

What do I need to do?

Why is it important for me to do this?

By asking these important questions, you are becoming an active member of your health care team. Having this discussion with your provider can give you an opportunity to clarify any concerns, correct misunderstandings, and ensure you’re receiving the best possible care.

It may be helpful to bring a notebook to write notes in case you need to look back after you get home.

At the end of the visit, make sure you ask your doctor any questions you still may have about your diagnosis, treatment, medications or other concerns that were not addressed during your visit. Most importantly, if you think something is incorrect, say so.

Many medical errors could be avoided if patients acted as advocates for their own health. Your health care provider has had a great deal of training to give you the best care, but even professionals make mistakes.

By having a dialogue with your care provider, you can help ensure your health care experience is a safe and positive one.

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