At Hopkins, we tested the checklist idea in the surgical intensive care unit. It helped, though you still needed to do more to lower the infection rate. You needed to make sure that supplies — disinfectant, drapery, catheters — were near and handy. We observed that these items were stored in eight different places within the hospital, and that was why, in emergencies, people often skipped steps. So we gathered all the necessary materials and placed them together on an accessible cart. We assigned someone to be in charge of the cart and to always make sure it was stocked.
Q. WHAT CAN CONSUMERS DO TO PROTECT THEMSELVES AGAINST HOSPITAL ERRORS?
A. I’d say that a patient should ask, “What is the hospital’s infection rate?” And if that number is high or the hospital says they don’t know it, you should run. In any case, you should also ask if they use a checklist system.
Once you’re an in-patient, ask: “Do I really need this catheter? Am I getting enough benefit to exceed the risk?” With anyone who touches you, ask, “Did you wash your hands?” It sounds silly. But you have to be your own advocate.