Hospital Abuse exists
Frustrated with hospitals? Chances are your rights as a caregiver are being abused.
As caregivers to a parent or spouse we shoulder a tremendous burden. We not only provide 24/7 care for our loved one, we are the decision makers when it comes to health care. So when our family member is in the hospital; we need to stay on top of treatment and care that is being provided. But how many of us have felt helpless or frustrated when we go to the nurses’ station and ask to speak to the charge nurse or doctor only to get a run around about his or her availability? A simple request like asking them to call us seems to annoy the staff. They get that look like “here’s another busybody asking stupid questions, bothering the staff”. How many times have you struggled for months to strike the perfect balance of medication that best manages our loved ones symptoms, only to have them go to the hospital and find that they completely changed their medications without consulting you (or even your personal physician)? They don’t care that by doing this they have sentenced you to starting the whole process again; with all of the behavioral problems, agitation and pain that your parent or spouse had before!
Who do you complain to? Who is responsible? Why can’t you get a modicum of respect from these hospital snobs? I’ll tell you who: Your best bet is The Joint Commission. You may have heard of it as JCAHO. The Joint Commission is a non-profit agency that has be accrediting hospitals since 1951. Their mission is “To continuously improve healthcare for the public…by evaluating healthcare organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value.” In fact about 82% of hospitals in the United States have a Gold Seal accreditation from them.
According to Bernadete Trice, an RN with over 10 years of acute care experience, without Joint Commission certification most hospitals would be shut down because they would no longer get Medicare reimbursement. Therefore hospitals pay close attention to anyone who knows what button to push, and TJC is the daddy of all buttons.
The Joint Commission has published an annual list of National Patient Safety Goals (NPSG) since 2002 where their stated goal was to: “Improve the effectiveness of communication among caregivers.” Ever since, communication among caregivers has remained on the list, and was expanded in 2005 saying that improving communication was an even higher priority because the lack of it can have serious consequences, for patients as well as hospitals. Recently the Joint Commission also updated their bill of right documents to further protect the rights of caregivers to be consulted before they take any serious actions like changing medications or doing a procedure. The Hospital Communication Bill of Rights outlines the importance of communication between medical staff as well as with caregivers.
More on Hospital Abuse
1) Providers shall have the ability to get the right information to the right person on the right device, now. And 6) Hospitals and their caregivers shall have the right to decide which types of mobile communication devices make the most sense to use for the good of patients’ health. This means that you can request that hospitals contact you through a mobile device, and even specifically ask them to text or leave a voice mail: and expect that they do so promptly. You can request that you only be contacted for actionable items (things like medication changes, or prior to a treatment or scan. Simply put when it comes to serious decisions it’s your call not theirs. Also, they cannot use excuses like citing Privacy Laws (HIPAA), because the Joint Commission knows that there are now ways to protect these kinds of communication.
3) Privacy shall be upheld and no critical mobile message shall remain unacknowledged.
This is fairly straight forward, if you call a doctor and get his answering service or voicemail then you should expect the courtesy of a return call. And if this is a chronic problem, you now have a complaint process with teeth. Doctors who work in hospitals can lose privileges in that hospital hich has tremendous financial consequences to them.
This knowledge should empower you the next time you feel powerless against the hospital system. Your option matters, in fact you should have a voice in all important decisions. If you feel ignored or marginalized, or you feel that your loved one’s safety has been jeopardized, the Joint Commission wants to know.
That said, there are there are several things you can and should do to dramatically reduce the chance of problems. According to RN Trice “First and foremost, make a list ahead of time of all medications. Include the dosage and when they are given. Also do the same for supplements”.
Many advice articles will say to bring all the medications in a bag. While that may work well for a doctor’s visit, a written list is better for a hospital because it’s much easier for different departments to share a list. Make sure the list includes the primary care doctor’s name and phone number, as well as the name and number of your pharmacy.”
For a more detailed explanation on navigating the maze of hospital bureaucracies come back to the Caregiver Relief Web Site.