3 Questions Patients Should Ask To Ensure Safer Care

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - In a world filled with technical medical terms, errors, or at the very list miscommunications, are bound to happen.

Dr. Sridevi Donepudi of Topeka's Cotton-O'Neil Clinic says any process that involves human beings is open to some mistakes. She admits that, at times, doctors may not realize a patient doesn't understand the words being used. At the same time, the patient may hear the message conveyed in an entirely different manner than what the doctor has stated.

The National Patient Safety Foundation recently launched campaign, aiming to prevent those types of errors by encouraging patients to ask three questions.

The first question: "What is my main problem?"

Dr. Donepudi says there may be instances where, what the doctor views as the most critical issue to address first, is not what the area on which the patient is focused. For example, a person might come in complaining of hip pain and the doctor notices extremely elevated blood pressure or blood sugars that are of immediate threat to a person's health.

The second question: "What do I need to do?"

Dr. Donepudi says it is important for a patient to understand what their role is in their care and know what responsibilities they have once they leave the appointment. This include items such as following up with blood tests, therapy appointments or diet and exercise changes.

The final question: "Why it is important for me to do those things?"

Dr. Donepudi says health care has evolved into a partnership between doctors and patients. She says doctors must help a patient to understand the options available and the consequences of each so a patient can decide what to do and what not to do. Rather than simply tell a patient with heart trouble to avoid salt in their diet, Dr. Donepudi says she would explain that added salt increase water retention which makes a person's heart work harder. Having that understanding of why, she says, helps a person take more ownership of their actions.

To that end, Stormont-Vail is among health care organizations implementing an online patient portal. Patients create a secure account so they can access medical records, see summaries of their doctors' visits, request prescription refills, even send notes to ask questions.

Being an active participant in your health care is the greatest tool a person has to ensure it's done right. The important thing, Dr. Donepudi says, is the dialogue a person has with the provider.

March 2-8, 2014, is National Patient Safety Awareness Week. The National Patient Safety Foundation found 42-percent of people believed they'd experienced a medical mistake of some type.