By Christina Orlovsky, senior staff writer
Quality health care should continue even after a patient
leaves a hospital. This is the message behind a new campaign launched by the
Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)
encouraging patients to take an active role in their recovery.
The new education campaign is the latest goal of the
organization’s Speak Up program. Launched in 2002 by JCAHO and the Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the national initiative encourages
patients to “become active, involved and informed participants on the health
Studies have shown that many patients leave the hospital
confused about diagnoses, unclear about medications and unaware of possible side
effects. In fact, a recent study, published in the Aug. 2005 issue of Mayo
Clinic Proceedings, reported that of a small group of consecutive patients
discharged from a New York teaching hospital, only 42 percent knew their
diagnosis. The survey also found that only 28 percent of patients prescribed
medications knew the correct names for their medication; 37 percent knew the
purpose of the medication; and 14 percent knew all the possible side effects.
Programs like the Joint Commission’s Speak Up initiative are
designed to improve such statistics.
Through brochures, public service announcements and
participation from health care providers in its more than 1,000 accredited
facilities, JCAHO urges patients to involve themselves in their own health care
by taking the following steps:
Speak up with questions or
concerns, and ask again if you don’t understand.
Pay attention to the care
you’re receiving, making sure you’re getting the right treatments and
medications by the right health care professionals.
Educate yourself about your
diagnosis, tests and treatments.
Ask a family member or friend
to be a health advocate.
Know the medications you take
and why you take them.
Use a health care facility
that has been evaluated for quality and safety standards.
Participate in all decisions
about your treatment.
These actionable steps are designed to empower patients to
improve their own safety by reducing medical errors, preventing infections and
following up on treatment. The latest effort, centered on a brochure called
“Planning Your Recovery,” takes health care out of the hospital and puts it into
the home of patients that have been diagnosed with a condition, prescribed
medication and released from constant care.
“A patient’s care is not complete just because he or she
leaves a hospital,” said Dennis S. O’Leary, M.D., president of the Joint
Commission. “Recovery is dependent upon continuing to get the care you need to
O’Leary added that while nurses and other health care
providers are involved in helping patients plan for follow-up care, the patients
also have a responsibility to continue to seek advice and treatment.
The education campaign focuses on the Speak Up initiative’s
core mission, encouraging patients to find out about their condition, including
when they should expect to get better, what symptoms and warning signs they
should watch out for and what expectations they should set for themselves about
resuming normal activities. Patients are also advised to find out all they can
about new medications, including proper dosing instructions, possible
interactions new prescriptions may have with existing ones and any side effects
that may occur.
Finally, JCAHO recommends that patients ask for written
directions on taking care of wounds, using special equipment and doing required
exercises. Patients should also find out the right contacts for future care, any
upcoming tests they can expect to receive and what their insurance will and
In order for the Speak Up campaign to be successful, JCAHO is
relying on health care facilities to get the word out to patients and providers.
Speak Up materials can be posted at hospitals, distributed at health fairs and
used during staff education and orientation programs.
For more information, visit the Joint Commission Web site.
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