Why You Need a Healthcare Buddy

Danger Everywhere

Using our healthcare system can be dangerous to your health. Of late,  the media has been filled with reports of life-threatening superbug infections caused by an invasive scope used to assess gastrointestinal health. It took the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) 3 years to discover that Olympus, the maker of the scope causing infections at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center, was responsible because the manufacturer had not reported that information to the FDA. Olympus endoscopes, which account for 85% of this specialty market in the U.S., have been shown be the cause of six of the nine recent superbug outbreaks, including the one at UCLA, where three patients died and many others were sickened. More  recently, the FDA has turned its attention to bronchoscopes, another commonly used diagnostic tool, which is causing the same type of problems.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), a nonprofit organization that provides health policy advice under a congressional charter, first noted in 1999 that as many as 98,000 people die each year in hospitals as a result of preventable errors. In 2011, Joel Graedon, MS, and Teresa Graedon, PhD, of The People’s Pharmacy, estimated the number of treatment-attributable deaths, including those in hospitals, nursing homes and outpatient settings to be nearly 789,000 annually. In addition to deaths, there are most likely millions more patients who are at risk of being medically harmed in one way or another.

If that were not enough, the number of preventable medication errors is alarming. The Graedons estimate that 1.5 million inpatient and 7.8 million outpatient medication errors are avoidable. This includes the nearly 350,000 deaths caused by reactions to prescribed drugs.

Don’t Travel Alone

Surviving a hospital stay and prescribed medications is no easy feat. Doing it alone can be daunting. That’s why it’s essential to have someone who can accompany you on the journey. The ideal time to get a healthcare buddy is when you are well. That person may not necessarily be your spouse or a family member. Even if they are local, they may be too emotionally involved with you to see things clearly. You need a person who is objective, calm, organized, sturdy and willing to do whatever it takes to help you through. Always take your healthcare buddy with you if there is even a slight possibility of a serious diagnosis, such as cancer. Fear can prevent you from hearing everything you need to know.

Plan Now, Not Later

Planning for a time when you are incapacitated or facing a terminal illness is difficult to do because most of us are uncomfortable with the idea of dying. What can help is thinking of the burden you will leave for your loved ones if you don’t have everything in order.

The most comprehensive approach is to engage an estate lawyer, who can prepare the complete range of planning documents, including an Advanced Healthcare Directive, a Power of Attorney, a Will and a Living Trust, if desired. There are also standard forms readily available online and low-cost firms that can assist you. All too often, someone gets extremely ill or sustains severe injuries in an accident, and the person closest is left scrambling to get the necessary documents in place. It’s far better to take care of these matters when you are well and have clarity of mind.

Learn more? Order Surviving the U.S. Health System: Insurance, Providers, Well Care, Sick Care at http://surviveushealthsystem.com/books-store/and peruse the blog archives.