Hospital Survival Guide

Who's Doing What?

Before being admitted, discuss your treatment at length with your doctor. Take another person along to ensure you are getting accurate information. Ask for relevant written materials and establish a specific time to call if you have any additional questions. Make sure you understand what will be done, why it will be done, and what to expect after recovery.

When admitted, request a copy of your medical records to take home, and ask that a daily billing summary be sent to your room. Some hospitals may balk. State legislatures have legally required this access to your medical record in about half of the United States; and in most other states, laws don't specifically prohibit patients from having their full records.

Record everything from antibiotics to X rays in your personal hospital diary. Know, Connolly says, "who is doing what to you at all times--including what medication you're receiving or why you're undergoing a specific test. Reduce the risk of infection by politely asking any employee touching you, or your food, to wash his or her hands, or to put on a pair of fresh rubber gloves.

If concerns arise, contact your doctor or the hospital's patient advocate or ombudsman. If a problem persists, contact specific department heads or the hospital's top executive. Direct communication will usually be enough.

Continued on page 6:  Paying the Bill