Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Advocate's Responsibility

There is no magic to being a patient’s advocate. We cannot guarantee a perfect outcome. I just read a blog that was entitled “Be A Patient Safety Advocate. Help Stop Medical Malpractice”. I knew that it was from a lawyer because it used the term “malpractice” and we use the words error, injury or adverse event. It may often mean the same thing but malpractice is a legal term.

In this case an advocate is a legal advocate, fighting for the family or patient after the injury or death. But, make no mistake there are never guarantees.

He used this scenario in his blog: "In a recent case, a man suffering from intestinal pains was admitted to the hospital where he was diagnosed with Diverticulitis. Blockage was detected the next day and surgery performed. During surgery, his intestines ruptured. Then he suffered a heart attack. The man died thirty days later from sepsis and gangrene. The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging the ER physician misread the patient’s X-rays."

This is the sort of case an advocate would fear. Many patient advocates are hired by the patient or family and paid (usually very well) for their time. But what if an incident like this happens? What if the patient becomes infected even with an advocate? Is the patient / family entitled to a refund? Are advocates making patients believe they are safe because they are there or safer?

How can we count the lives we save? When a patient leaves the hospital healthy because I have been there for 10 or 12 hours or more, weren’t they supposed to leave healthy? What about the patient who contracted an infection, just days after I left her bedside after being there over 90 hours?

I am confident that no one will ever guarantee a “good” outcome, but I wonder what people think of the role of an advocate when there is a "bad" outcome.

1 comment:

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