Wash your hands! Wash your hands! Wash your hands!
A recent article by Michelle Crouch (Reader’s Digest – May ’18) indicates that over 440,000 American die every year from medical errors and infections contracted in area hospitals. So, how do we as patients head off this statistic? Take charge of your care: ask questions, take notes and have someone be a health advocate on your behalf. As Peter Pronovost, M.D., Ph.D., former senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore states: you are part of the healthcare team, it’s your body, you know yourself better than anyone else.
We can’t always determine which hospital we are taken to in an emergency, but we can investigate the hospitals in the area in which we live. Get to know the “medical standing” of each facility that you see in your neighborhood. Is it a good hospital? Does it have an emergency department? What type of care does the hospital provide? These are simple questions but you will be surprised what the answers provide. They will give you a good indication of the quality of healthcare.
When you receive a medical diagnosis you can always ask, “is there anything else it might be?” This opens the discussion between you and the healthcare provider. If you are unsure, you can always get a second opinion. If you are in the hospital when this diagnosis occurs, you can also request a “medical huddle.” This gives the medical team the opportunity to meet with you in one place and discuss your care.
Test results are often confusing to the layperson. CT’s, lab work, MRI’s, XRAY’s, biopsies, skin scrapings, cultures, enzyme activity, therapeutic levels are all medical evaluations that usually require an informed medical follow-up with both the provider and patient to correctly determine the results. Meeting with your medical provider gives you the opportunity to have an in-depth discussion about your medical condition and any needed follow-up care.
Superbugs! Today, this is a real and constant source of infection. The CDC no longer recommends antibiotics after an operation if you don’t have signs of infection. Antibiotics can kill the protective bacteria in your gut which gives way for the invasion of Clostridium Difficile (C. diff.), one of the deadliest hospital-acquired infections, according to Arjun Srinivasan, M.D., a medical epidemiologist at the CDC.
A hospital room, or a busy clinic area, often aren’t cleaned properly. It’s not that the personnel aren’t competent or that the infections guidelines are inadequate, it’s due to tight-routines and short-staffing. This may also extend to medical items as well: catheters, IV’s, tubing, blood collection equipment, countertops, bed rails, floors, bathrooms. You may want to carry some sanitizing wipes for your personal care. This is also a good time to mention: WASH YOUR HANDS, and do it often and whenever necessary.
Personal lifestyle activities are very important in maintaining health. Brushing your teeth can aid in keeping you healthy. Bacteria harboring in your mouth and between your teeth may travel to your lungs causing a nasty case of pneumonia. Needless to say, never use someone else’s toothbrush. If you experience diarrhea it could be the first sign of an infection. Good personal grooming is vitally important for maintaining good health and avoiding potential health problems to others. Again, WASH YOUR HANDS.
I mention WASHING YOUR HANDS often in this review because it is a simple function that anyone can perform. It’s your best weapon against infection and it prevents the spread of potential bacterial infection to other people and environmental surfaces. A good hand washing routine includes: soap and water, working-up a good lather, rinsing, drying, and discarding the wet cloth. Remember to wash your hands before you eat and after using the bathroom.
There are some common objects in a medical care facility that usually accumulate bacteria and virus “bugs.” Unfortunately, they are objects that we use every day: TV remotes, elevator buttons, stethoscopes, BP cuffs, telephones, bed rails, IV poles, chairs, flat surfaces, toilet handles, wheelchairs, faucet handles. Even though we want to be friendly with our neighbor, not everyone remembers to wash their hands or uses good grooming practices. So, when you shake hands with someone and they are suffering from an obvious cold or infection use extra good cleaning practices.
After we have done all that can be done to keep ourselves healthy, it’s important to stay that way. Some hints include: eat balanced meals, exercise on a regular basis, form a medical team with your providers, adopt healthy lifestyle habits, be a health advocate when you’re a hospital patient, and yes I’m going to say it again: WASH YOUR HANDS!