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VA National Center for Patient Safety

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Get Involved!

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.

Safety tips for you

  • 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.

Questions are the Answer*, developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), has suggested general questions, treatment specific questions, and a Build Your Question List tool.

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.

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.

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!

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.

 *By clicking on these links, you will leave the Department of Veterans Affairs Web site.

VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked Web site.