United States Department of Veterans Affairs

National Center for Patient Safety

Patient Safety for Patients
Patient Safety - Get Involved! | Tips & Tools | Sources for More Information | Final Thoughts

We urge you and your family to become part of our patient safety team.

For our patient safety program to be truly effective, we need you to be fully informed and actively involved in your care.

What does your involvement in patient safety mean to you and your family?

  • It means we need you to provide detailed information about your condition.
  • It means that you should clearly understand your diagnosis and treatment plan and know what to expect.
  • It means keeping us informed of any changes in your condition, good or bad, such as an allergic reaction to a drug.
  • It means we want you to speak up when you have a question about any aspect of your care.

We want you to become a partner in the development of a safe care plan. Your active involvement will help us consistently do the right thing at the right time for the right person – you.

We hope you will read on. Here are a few other things to consider:

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If you haven't done so, visit My HealtheVet: My HealtheVet is a web-based product that gives you the information and tools you need to improve your health. You'll have to register to have full access to all features, but it's easy: Just click on the "Register Now" button on the left hand side of the MyhealtheVet home page (noted above) and follow the instructions.

Once registered, you'll be able to…

  • Add information to your personal health journal about over-the-counter medications, allergies, military health history, medical events, tests and allergies.
  • Record and track important personal information, such as: contact information, emergency contacts, healthcare providers, and health insurance information.
  • Record and track your personal health metrics (blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, heart rate, body temperature, weight, and pain) in Health E-logs.
  • Print a wallet ID card with personal information concerning your health record.

You'll also have access more than 18 million pages of health information from the site’s Health Education Library!

Check out these tips compiled by the VA:

  • When you get a prescription, make sure you know what it is for and what the side effects might be.
  • Make sure your doctor knows what allergies or problems you have had with medicines.
  • If you have a test, ask about the results.  If they don’t seem right, speak to your doctor.
  • Make sure your doctor knows about all the medications you take. This includes prescriptions, medications you bought at a store, and things like vitamins and herbs.
  • Write down questions for your doctor before your visit and think about bringing a friend or family member with you.  It’s your health.  If you have questions, ask them

Don't be afraid to ask questions if you have doubts or concerns: Speak up! This will allow your VA healthcare providers an opportunity to better assist you. We want you to understand your treatment plan and why we have chosen it for you.

Involve your loved ones: Keep your loved ones informed about your care plan. Better yet, ask a family member to assist you in understanding and carrying out your care plan.

Understand your role in your care: VHA's Patient Advocate site has published Patient Rights and Responsibilities so that you will better understand what to expect from care provided by VA. This document covers topics from your participation in healthcare decisions to keeping personal clothes and effects.

Make sure you and your caregivers are clear about what medications you take: Be sure to tell your caregivers what medications you are taking, including non-prescription medications, vitamins and herbal remedies. When you receive a prescription, make sure it is the right medication and the right dose. Here's an easy-to-use medication record sheet to help with keeping track of all of these - just fill it in. Be sure to keep your list up to date!

Infection: Don't pass it on! : Did you know that each year, many lives and millions of dollars are lost due to the spread of infections in hospitals? Don't be afraid to remind friends, family and healthcare providers to wash and sanitize their hands before coming into direct contact with you.
Want to learn more about what the VA is doing? Take a look at the Infection: Don't Pass It On! website.

Having Surgery? Review VA's five-step "Ensuring Correct Surgery" process: We have information that will help you to understand what will happen before your surgery and how your doctors and nurses will take action to make sure that everything goes as planned. We have a five-step process that we call "Ensuring Correct Surgery."
Read our patient brochure and how find out how the process involves you!

Know what to do after being discharged from your VA medical facility: Make sure you understand what you need to do to keep your care plan active. Take time to speak to your caregivers about what medications you'll need and when you'll need to take them. Make sure you have contact information for one or more of your caregivers if you have further questions once you get home.
Learn more about how to plan your recovery.

Falls are a serious concern, especially for older veterans. Learn more about fall prevention at home.

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Here are number of other Web sites that we hope will be helpful to you:

Five steps to Safer Healthcare from "My HealtheVet (public welcome)

University of California, San Francisco, offers a brochure: "Patient Safety Tips"

The North American Spine Society also offers advice on patient safety

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's "20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors"

SafeMedication.com features complete, easy-to-read information on more than 800 drugs and general information on medications.

Patient and Nursing Home Resident Rights and Responsibilities from VHA outlines basics regarding respect, nondiscrimination, information disclosure, confidentiality, participation in treatment decisions and complaints.

The ACCE Healthcare Technology Foundation has published a brochure entitled Home Medical Device: Can I bring my own medical device with me to the hospital (Spanish version).

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Some final thoughts…

Remember what our parents used to tell us before crossing the street? Before you proceed: "stop, look and listen." Our parents' aim was to involve us in making the right decision. They didn’t want us to be harmed because we were caught off guard.

Patient safety can be that simple for you and your family…

  • Stop and learn the facts about your condition and your medications.
  • Look carefully through your care plan with us so that we all fully understand and concur on its course.
  • Listen closely to what you'll need to do to continue your care plan at home.

Above all, be proactive! Let us know if you feel the need to vary your care plan. Explain why. We'll listen.

Bottom line: As a well-informed patient, you can help us create a safer VA healthcare system.

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