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National Patient Safety Foundation stresses better understanding of health care

Date: 3/6/2014

SPRINGFIELD – You wouldn’t go into a store to buy a new $1,500 television set without asking any questions, right?

So why should it be any different when it comes to your health care?

In an effort to raise awareness and encourage the engagement of patients, families, health care providers, and the public, the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) has designated March 2 to 8 as Patient Safety Awareness Week.

This year’s theme, Navigate Your Health ... Safely, highlights the need for health care providers to ensure that patients and consumers are more engaged in the health care process, whether visiting the doctor for a routine exam or entering the hospital for surgery.

Each year, health care organizations around the world such as Baystate Health take part in Patient Safety Awareness Week, creating awareness in their community and among their staff.

“The ultimate health care experience can best be achieved when patients take an active role in their treatment by communicating with their health care team and always asking questions,” said Dr. Doug Salvador, vice president of Medical Affairs in the Division of Healthcare Quality at Baystate Health.

According to Salvador, there are many opportunities for patients to “help us take the best care of them.”

“One of the most important things patients can do is to help us minimize any confusion about the medications they are taking. So, every time you see a doctor in his or her office, in urgent care or an emergency department, or in the hospital, remember to bring along an accurate, updated list of all your medications,” Salvador said.

Salvador noted he couldn’t stress enough how much doctors would like their patients to actively participate in decisions surrounding their health care.

“That means always asking questions. If you do not understand why we are recommending a certain medical procedure, surgery, or medication, please ask a member of your health care team to explain it to you,” he said.

However, Salvador said he is aware that being in the hospital can be an emotional and stressful time for many, some of whom may be so very sick that they can’t always be their best advocate.

“In those cases, it’s best to have a family member or close friend to serve as your advocate ... someone you trust who can ask those questions, take notes for you, and listen to what the doctors and nurses are saying,” he said.

Salvador noted in today’s ever-changing world of health care, the focus more than ever is on preventive care.

“Patients need to think about their primary care team – including doctors, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, dietitians and others – as those who are going to help keep them healthy, not just the team to see when you are sick who can help make you better,” Salvador said.

“There needs to be a mindset change in patients around prevention … going to their primary care team to avoid getting sick and abandoning bad health habits in favor of healthy ones,” he added.

For additional information on Patient Safety Awareness Week, visit and for additional information on Healthcare Quality at Baystate, visit the Baystate Health homepage at .