Speak Up Program

Everyone has a role in making healthcare safe - physicians, healthcare leaders, nurses and technicians. Healthcare organizations across the country are working to make health care safety a priority. As the patient, you can also play a vital role in making your care safe by becoming an active, involved and informed member of your healthcare team.

The Speak Up program, sponsored by The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, urges patients to get involved in their care. Such efforts to increase consumer awareness and involvement are supported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This initiative provides simple advice on how you, as the patient, can make your care a positive experience. After all, research shows that patients who take part in decisions about their health care are more likely to have better outcomes.

When you visit MedStar St. Mary's Hospital, we will not only meet your medical needs, but we'll offer you the dignity, comfort and support you need during trying times. If there's anything we can do to make your stay better, please "Speak Up."

Speak up if you have questions or concerns, and if you don't understand, ask again. It's your body and you have a right to know.

  • Your health is too important to worry about being embarrassed if you don't understand something that your doctor, nurse, case manager or other healthcare professional tells you.
  • If you have any concerns or complaints, we would like to address them immediately. Please feel free to ask for the charge nurse, director or patient advocate, if needed.

Pay attention to the care you receive. Make sure you're getting the right treatments and medications by the right healthcare professionals. Don't assume anything.

  • Tell your nurse or doctor if something doesn't seem quite right.
  • Healthcare workers will introduce themselves when they enter your room and will be wearing identification badges.
  • Notice that your caregivers wash their hands. Hand washing is the most important way to prevent the spread of infections.
  • Show your name band to each caregiver prior to the administration of any medication, treatment or testing. Your name band contains important identifiers, such as name and date of birth, which allow us to confirm patient identity.

Educate yourself about your diagnosis, the medical tests you are undergoing and your treatment plan.

  • Gather information about your condition. Good sources include your doctor, your nurse, your library, respected websites and support groups through Health Connections.
  • Write down important facts your doctor tells you so you can look for additional information later. Ask one of your healthcare team members if he or she has any written information or handouts you can keep.
  • Thoroughly read all medical forms and make sure you understand them before you sign anything. If you don't understand, ask your doctor or nurse to explain them.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the operation of any equipment that is being used in your care.

Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate.

  • This designated family member or friend can ask questions that you may not think of while you are under stress.
  • He or she can also help remember answers to questions you have asked and speak up for you if you cannot.
  • Make sure this person understands your preferences for care and your wishes concerning resuscitation and life support.
  • Review consents for treatment with your advocate before you sign them and make sure you both understand exactly what you are agreeing to.
  • Make sure he or she understands the type of care you will need when you get home.
  • This person should know what to look for if your condition is getting worse and who to call for help.
  • Your advocate may be able to stay with you as long as you like. Please check with your nurse.

Know what medications you take, when and why you take them.

  • Ask about the purpose of the medication and ask for written information about it. Also, inquire about the side effects of the medication.
  • If you do not recognize a medication, verify that it is for you. Medications may come in different shapes, packages and colors depending on the brand or generic packaging.
  • Whenever you are going to receive a new medication, tell your doctors and nurses about allergies you have, or negative reactions you have had to medications in the past.
  • If you are taking multiple medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to take those medications together. This also holds true for vitamins, herbal nutritional supplements and over-the-counter drugs.

Understand that MedStar St. Mary's Hospital has undergone a rigorous on-site evaluation against established, quality and safety standards. In fact, MedStar St. Mary's Hospital is accredited by The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

  • Feel free to ask about MedStar St. Mary's Hospital's experience in treating your type of illness. How frequently do they perform the procedure you need and what specialized care do they provide in helping patients get well?
  • Before you leave the hospital, ask about follow-up care and make sure you understand all of the instructions.
  • Go to "Quality Check" at www.qualitycheck.org verify MedStar St. Mary's Hospital's outstanding accreditation results.

Participate in all decisions about your treatment. You are the center of the healthcare team.

  • You and your doctor should discuss what will be done during each step of your care.
  • Know who will be taking care of you, how long the treatment will last and how you should feel.
  • Understand that more tests or medications may not always be better. Ask your doctor what a new test or medication is likely to achieve.
  • Don't be afraid to seek a second opinion. If you are unsure about the nature of your illness and the best treatment, consider a second opinion.
  • Ask to speak with others who have undergone the procedure you are considering. These individuals can tell you what to expect and what worked best for them as they recovered.