Hospitals are hotbeds of in-house infections and potential medical errors that cost life and limb, even the many fine institutions in Seattle. However, there are times when staying in one could extend life or quality thereof. Technology high and low is your friend in surviving your or a loved one's stay. Here is a checklist to consider before you cross the threshold.
- Bring your iPad, Android or other non-phone mobile device, along with earbuds and a charger. You'll hear a lot of statements made by medical professionals over the next day or so. Some will be based on evidence, others on experience and some may be unintentionally hazardous to your health. Checking sites like e-Medicine and PubMed ensuresthat you have access to the latest guidelines for your condition. There are also several central guideline repositories like guideline.gov.
- Also check out drug names, procedures and the bios of any professionals who are new to you. The Web sites of the hospital, university and/or physician practice(s) relevant to your stay always offer a few important snippets.
- Print out a one-page summary sheet of your blood type, drugs, supplements, conditions, relevant past procedures and allergies even if you have been in that hospital before or have medical alert jewelry. Hand it to the unit clerk as you come up to the floor or unit, each nurse or doc you haven't seen before, the anesthesiologist, the surgeon...everyone who might be entering orders regarding your care or doing something to your body. Though you might think that the hospital has access to this information already or will obtain it from you when you reach your bed, mistakes in charting and reconciling information are common, as are decisions made without referring to the most relevant fact(s), which are often difficult to identify in even the best electronic records.
- If possible, bring a loved one or friend to trade off waking hours with. Paranoid as this sounds, bad things can happen while you're dazed, confused and/or asleep. These could be as painful as a lab tech drawing blood who grabs your injured arm carelessly to reposition it, or as life-threatening as someone who hangs an IV bag of something you're allergic to. Your companion should also have and share copies of your summary sheet.
- If having someone hang out isn't practical, try for a "call a friend" approach where someone you know to be knowledgeable is on call to take questions via phone or e-mail/Skype. Unless blood is pouring out of every orifice, there is usually time to double-check what someone wants to do. It's like buying a car -- don't be pressured into a less-than-informed choice. Decisions about health can be a lot riskier than the blue Toyota vs. the green Ford. As appropriate, put your "lifeline" on speaker or a video call and let her/him speak with the professional who is asking for a verdict.
- When anyone enters your room to administer something, ask you questions, take vital signs or any other clinical purpose, you or your companion should check the dosage and what you're being given, challenge anyone who's doing something counterproductive (as in the lab tech example), and prod along processes that need it, e.g. ensuring that if you don't have your meds with you, that these are ordered to enable continuation of your normal regimen unless there are clinical reasons to delay a dose.
- If you're diabetic, even a type 2, your glucose could spike or crash in a hospital setting, so you may need to ask for glucose checks on your own initiative. You will also want to stay on top of any interventions that could worsen your pre-existing conditions, e.g. narcotics if you tend to be constipated, dehydration if you usually have to remind yourself to drink, etc.
It should go without saying, but don't rely on the hospital to have anything you need. Bring your own CPAP/BiPAP and mask, special pillow, favorite sheet, robe/slippers and toiletries.
It's your life. Live stronger with the technology assets you can bring along to your hospital stay.