Hospitals encourage patient participation for safer care

The Institute of Medicine estimates 400,000 medication errors occur nationwide in hospitals each year. Hospitals believe one of the best ways to improve those numbers is through patient and family participation.

For the next several months, hospitals across Alabama will be promoting a patient safety campaign called Join the Health Journey. The campaign is spearheaded by the Alabama Hospital Association. The organization president, J. Michael Horsley, said, "Hospitals are focusing heavily on ways they can prevent these errors and are making progress, but they need the help of patients."

Some specific efforts underway include hospitals using electronic scanning systems to check patients' wristbands before administering medications, improving dispensing mechanisms and putting systems in place to monitor medications, called high-alert medications, that are known to have bad side effects if not used appropriately.

Horsley said, "Studies have shown that more involvement of patients results in better care." Patients are encouraged to ask more questions about the pills being given and why. They need to ask if they are taking a high-alert medication and if so what are the side effects.

The Join the Health Journey campaign is on ongoing effort to focus on ways hospitals can improve care and to enlist the help of patients and their families. The first phase focused on infection prevention, the second on improving communication and this week marks the launch of the medication safety portion. Find out more information at