(BPT) – Did you know that one in every 10 healthcare diagnoses is incorrect, delayed or missed completely? That’s the word from the National Patient Safety Foundation. To avoid joining this statistic, it is important to remember that you and your doctor should take a collaborative approach to your health. Working closely with your doctor can help you receive higher quality care.
In honor of Patient Safety Awareness Week, here are five steps to help you become an active member of your healthcare team.
- Be prepared for routine appointments. The Boy Scout motto won’t fail you when it’s time for your annual checkup or well-woman visit. In the days leading up to your appointment, jot down any questions you have for your doctor – aches, pains, skin problems, changes in your health or reminders about conditions your doctor wanted to monitor. Also, make a list of any medicines you take regularly or gather the containers in a bag and take them with you for your doctor to review. Include prescription and over-the-counter medications and vitamins.
- Check your records before your visit. If your doctor lets you see your records using an online portal, sometimes called a patient health record, take a few minutes to log in and look over the details while you’re preparing for your appointment. Note anything that has changed since your last visit, such as a new allergy diagnosis, a change in medication or an urgent care visit. Pay special attention to important things that may be incorrect – the spelling of your name, the person named as your emergency contact and your work phone number, for example.
- Work with your doctor to keep your records up to date. All health records are stored electronically. Even if your doctor or nurse takes notes on a clipboard, they will load all of your information into their secure computer system. It’s very important that each doctor you see has the most accurate information you can provide. Preparing for the visit will let you deliver that information quickly, help the doctor correct errors and move on to discussing your questions.
- Agree to share your health records electronically. Since your doctors already store your records electronically, it’s easiest to share them with the rest of your healthcare team electronically too. The New York State Department of Health created the Statewide Health Information Network for New York (SHIN-NY, pronounced SHY-nee) to allow doctors, hospitals and related providers to share your records in a secure digital environment where your privacy is protected.
Your doctors connect to the SHIN-NY through one of several community platforms, like Hixny in the eastern part of the state. When you visit a new doctor – or when your doctor first connects to your community platform – they’ll ask you for permission to share your records through that platform. That way, all of your doctors will have the same updated information you provided. Each time you agree to let a doctor share your records electronically, you’re helping increase the accuracy of the information that doctor has – which improves safety as well as quality of care.
- Plan ahead for emergencies. While routine appointments require one kind of attention to safety, emergencies require another. Keep your phone’s emergency contact feature updated in case you can’t give good information to emergency personnel. If you don’t have a smartphone, make a contact called ICE (it stands for ‘in case of emergency’) in your phone’s contacts and list your emergency contact there.
Wear a medic alert bracelet or necklace if you have a condition or are taking medication that rescuers should know about, such as asthma or a heart condition. Even if you don’t have a chronic condition, wear a wristband, shoe tag or necklace with emergency contact numbers if you frequently head out alone. These steps will give emergency personnel the information they need to reach your contacts and pull your electronic health records so they can give you smart, safe care.
Curious about how doctors share your health records? Learn more about how Hixny and the SHIN-NY work at Hixny.org.