Media releases

August 30, 2005

Safer healthcare: just a matter of asking for it

More people die as a result of medical errors than from other common causes of death including motor vehicle crashes, breast cancer, and AIDS according to a new British website created to improve patient safety.

Patient safety, or safer healthcare, also remains an issue in Australia with The Quality in Australian Health Care Study stating that potentially one in seven hospitalized patients will suffer an adverse event with 50 per cent of these events preventable.

Managing Director of Medibank Private, Australia's largest health fund, George Savvides, is reminding Australians that although Australia has one of the best health care systems in the world, things can go wrong, clinical work environments are exposed to process error.

"Health care is becoming more complicated, but there are a number of simple ways - at every level - to improve patient safety and ensure safer healthcare.

"What we are saying is that safer health care does not only involve expert clinicians. No single group can be expected to improve safety, everyone has a part to play, from governments, to healthcare providers, professional bodies establishing quality standards, health funds, and ultimately patients receiving the care." Mr Savvides said.

Acting on this thinking Medibank Private, with the support of the Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQH), is addressing patient safety, or safer health care, by encouraging Australians to be more active in managing their health care.

Medibank Private has reproduced advice developed by the ACSQH to help people improve their health care -'10 tips for Safer Health Care'- that can potentially lead to safer health care and better health outcomes. Although much of the advice could be seen as common sense they are important reminders to avoid preventable adverse events.

"Australians need to take more responsibility for their health and their health care and stop playing a passive role in the outcome." Mr Savvides said.

"We cover nearly three million people, of course we have an interest in ensuring each and every one of our members receive the best quality and safest care they need. Safer health care for our members has clear benefits for everyone involved.

"People need to be active in ensuring they get the safest and best health care possible. To do this people should see themselves and their health care professional as a team and be involved as much as possible in the decisions that are made about their health," said Mr Savvides.

A summary of the tips is listed below - the complete guide to becoming more actively involved in your healthcare can be found at:

1. Be actively involved in your own health care
Taking part in decisions that are made about your treatment is the single most important way to help prevent things from going wrong and to get the best possible care for your needs.

2. Speak up if you have questions or concerns
It's OK to ask your doctor questions and expect answers that you can understand.

3. Learn more about your condition or treatments by asking your doctor or nurse and by using other reliable sources of information
Collect as much information as you can about your condition and any treatment that you are receiving.
4. Keep a list of all the medicines you are taking
This list can be used to inform your doctor and pharmacist of the drugs you are taking, including over the counter drugs and complementary medicines as well as any drug allergies you may have. It ensures that any medication prescribed in your treatment is appropriate.

5. Make sure you understand the medicines you are taking
When collecting medication, always read the label and warnings and always double check that the medication is exactly what the doctor prescribed you.

6. Make sure you get the results of any test or procedure
You need to know your results and their implications for you and any necessary health care.
If you are waiting longer than expected, ring your doctor to find out, as no news is often not good news.
7. Talk to your health care professional about your options if you need to go into hospital
Become involved in decisions about your hospital treatment by discussing your options with your health care professionals.

8. Make sure you understand what will happen if you need surgery or a procedure
If you require surgery, ensure you know exactly what procedure is taking place, who will be delivering it, and what it will involve.

9. Make sure you, your doctor and your surgeon all agree on exactly what will be done during operation
Confirm with both your doctor and the surgeon the detail of what procedure is required and when it will be done.

10. Before you leave hospital, ask your doctor or other health care professional to explain the treatment plan you will use at home
When discharged from hospital, ensure that you are fully aware of and understand what medication or ongoing treatment you require. Always see your GP when discharged.


For more information contact: Libby Woolnough, Media Relations Adviser,
Medibank Private PH: 03) 8622 5181 / 0411 659 060

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