It's your health care. Never be afraid to ask, why?

At University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center, we want what is best for you. No matter what the service, the hospital always has one principle in mind. Patient safety.

There are several ways UM Baltimore Washington Medical Center works to protect its patients. We support The Joint Commission nationwide patient safety goals, considering the patient in every step of care.

But there are also ways patients can protect themselves when it comes to medical care. Get involved with your care, and ask questions if you are not sure of something. Below, we've listed some tips that can help, based on information from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Institute of Safe Medication Practices.

Your medicines

  • Tell your doctors about all the medicines you are taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, as well as vitamins and herbal supplements.
  • Inform your doctor about any allergies or bad reactions to certain medicines.
  • Ask your doctor questions about the medicine, such as, "What is this medicine for," "How long am I supposed to take it," "What are the potential side effects?" and "How should I store it?"
  • Ask your pharmacist if you have questions about the dosage or directions on the medicine labels.
  • Keep an up-to-date list of the medicines you take, both prescription and over-the-counter. Don't forget about vitamins and herbal supplements.

Hospital stays

  • When you go to the hospital, take the list of all your medications with you.
  • Remind health care workers who have direct contact with you to wash their hands or use alcohol-based hand gel.
  • Remind your nurse or doctor if you have any allergies. If you are having tests or procedures done, be sure to include allergies to iodine or shellfish. Latex allergies are also important to note.
  • Before you are discharged, ask your doctor or nurse to explain your at-home treatment plan, including when and how to take your medicines, what to look for that might mean you're getting worse and whom to contact.

Surgery

  • If you are having surgery, make sure you and your surgeon agree on the procedure that is to be performed. At UM Baltimore Washington Medical Center, surgeons and other physicians are required to initial the site for the procedure, especially when a procedure involves part of the body with multiple structures, such as the fingers, or laterality, such as the arms.

Remember: It's important to speak up and ask questions if you have concerns about your care. Don't assume the doctor and staff members know everything about your medical background. You need to provide the doctors and nursing or hospital staff with as much information as possible about your particular situation and your desired care. If you have concerns or need to make a complaint, you have the right to contact management. Please ask to speak with the Nursing Supervisor. In addition, our Patient Advocates are available to support and assist you. They can be reached by calling 410-787-4200.

If you feel it is necessary to report your concerns to Joint Commission, please do so by calling the Joint Commission Office of Quality Monitoring at 1-800-994-6610 or writing to: The Joint Commission, Quality Monitoring, One Renaissance Boulevard, Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181. You may also contact the Maryland Office of Health Care Quality at 1-877-402-8218 or writing to: Maryland Office of Health Care Quality, Spring Grove Hospital Center, Bland Bryant Building, 55 Wade Avenue, Catonsville, MD 21228.

For more information about patient safety, visit one of the following websites: