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Patient Safety Awareness Week! — March 2019

Patient Safety Awareness Week! — March 2019


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How to Help Your Providers Keep You Safe

Naturally you assume the best when you seek healthcare services. You should, in fact, as most healthcare in the U.S. is safe and of good quality. Yet, errors and accidents still happen, and many of them are unintentional and preventable.

Harm to patients can happen in several ways. Medication errors are one of the most common problems that occur in hospital and outpatient settings and can easily happen at home too. A study by Hardeep Singh et al in the BMJ estimated that 5 percent of adults who receive outpatient care experience a diagnostic error (a misdiagnosis, a missed diagnosis or a delayed diagnosis). One in 31 hospital patients will develop an infection unrelated to their original reason for being hospitalized per the Centers for Disease Control. Another risk to patient safety is unnecessary testing. Such testing can lead to false positive results and may provide no additional helpful information, often at great expense and worry.

Should you be concerned about seeking care? No! Preventive medicine and care for sudden or chronic illness or injury is essential. But when you go to a provider, be an active participant in your care. You can improve your care and decrease the possibility for harm by asking questions about your conditions and medications. Also, inquiring why you are having procedures and what you hope to learn from the results can minimize unnecessary testing and help build strong relationships with your providers.

Patient Safety Awareness Week

March 10-16 is Patient Safety Awareness Week, an annual initiative to encourage people to learn more about healthcare safety. You may think patient safety is the job of healthcare providers alone, but really everyone can play a part. Be your own best healthcare advocate!

Reducing Medication Errors

Medications can work wonders, but if they are taken incorrectly or by the wrong person, they can cause harm and even death. To help reduce mistakes, make sure you know why you take each medication and what the possible side effects are. If you notice anything “off,” tell your provider about your symptoms.

Keep a list of your medications (and dosage) handy. Stash a copy in your wallet so it travels with you. If you fill weekly pill boxes, refer to your list to make sure you have the right pills in each slot. Be sure to update your medication list if prescriptions are added, stopped or changed. Some people use their smart phone camera to take pictures of prescription bottles. Here are other tips for avoiding errors:

  • Take medications as prescribed. The dosage and time (of day or on an empty/full stomach) are important details. If you are unsure, don’t hesitate to ask for clear instructions. If the cost of prescriptions is the reason you don’t take medications, let your provider know. Sometimes there are less expensive, but equally effective options available. Also, many drug companies offer financial assistance programs.
  • If given medications in the hospital, ask the nurse what each is, the dosage and what it is for (if you don’t know).
  • Don’t self-medicate. It can be unsafe to take medications left-over from a previous illness or from a family member or friend. They could interact negatively with something else you take or may not be appropriate for your current condition, symptoms, health status, weight, etc.
  • Store all medications out of the reach of pets, children and others who could be harmed.
  • If a family member or friend has asked for your support during a hospitalization or other procedure, you can ask about medications they receive. Writing down the names and dosage will help the patient keep orderly medical records. This is especially important if any adverse reactions occur so future mistakes can be avoided.
  • Offer assistance to the elderly and disabled persons in your life who may need help taking their medicines safely.

Learn more by reading our newsletter, Medication Errors at Home.

Misdiagnosis, Missed Diagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

Do you have control over diagnostic errors? Most people don’t think that’s their job. But in fact, keeping good medical records, taking notes and tracking test results, can keep your providers on their toes. Let’s say you don’t receive test results when expected. Do you assume no news is good news or do you follow-up? You follow-up! In our complicated medical system, details can easily fall through the cracks but important information about your health is not something you want to miss.

If you keep a medical notebook with the dates of surgeries, procedures, diagnoses, medication lists and other important details, you can develop a sixth sense about your health. If you think a diagnosis doesn’t quite add up, speak up. Ask what else it could be, what can you expect, what to do if symptoms worsen, and if it safe to “watch and wait”? You can also request a second opinion if you receive a serious diagnosis, have unresolved symptoms or don’t feel confident about the diagnosis or provider.

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Avoiding Infection

Hospitals are the place you go to get well, right? True, but sadly there is a risk of being exposed to infection while there. Surgical wounds and IV or catheter sites are easy spots for infections to start. Maintaining good hygiene practices can reduce the risk. If you notice a provider about to touch these areas without first washing their hands, ask them to! Wash your own hands regularly, especially after using the toilet. If you have a catheter or drainage tube that’s become loose or dislodged, let your nurse know so it can be fixed or removed as soon as possible to prevent infection.

Ask your visitors to wash their hands each time they enter your room. If potential visitors are sick, ask them not to come until they are well. If you are given antibiotics for an infection, be sure to take the full course as directed; they are designed to continue fighting infection after you begin to feel better.  

Do I Really Need That?

Even primary care doctors think their patients receive too much medical care, according to a report published by B.E. Sirovich et al in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Unnecessary testing and treatment can harm patients. For example, unneeded antibiotics increase the risk for developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Also, the use of CT (computed tomography) scans has soared in the last 20 years. CT scans expose patients to levels of radiation linked to increasing cancer rates and do not necessarily add valuable information.

How can you avoid testing, medications or other services that offer marginal value? Ask your provider these questions:

  • How will this test, procedure, medicine help? What are the potential results and how will they affect the next steps?
  • What are the risks and side effects?
  • Are there simpler, safer options?
  • What if I choose to wait or choose not to have the test or take the medicine?
  • How much does it cost, and does insurance usually cover it?

To learn more about unnecessary testing, read our newsletters, Shared Heathcare Decision-Making and Wasteful Medical Spending.

While patient safety measures in doctor’s offices and hospitals have made significant progress in keeping patients safe, you can also do your part. Remember that KnovaSolutions can assist you with any health challenge you and your family are facing. Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions about patient safety. We can help you identify your risks given your specific set of health concerns. Call us at 800/355-0885, Monday-Friday, 8 am-8 pm, MT.

Click here to view/download the full newsletter. We encourage you to leave a comment or question below and a KnovaSolutions nurse or pharmacist will reply.

The information contained in this newsletter is for general, educational purposes. It should not be considered a replacement for consultation with your healthcare provider.  If you have concerns about your health, please contact your healthcare provider.


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Is Breaking News Breaking You? — February 2019

Is Breaking News Breaking You? — February 2019


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How to Stay Informed while Minimizing Stress

Almost two-thirds of all Americans say that the daily news causes them stress, according to an American Psychological Association (APA) survey. Feeling anxious, depressed, hopeless, irritable and worn out are some of the symptoms of “headline stress disorder,” a phrase coined by psychologist Steven Stosny.

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Managing Your Weight — January 2019

Managing Your Weight — January 2019


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For a Healthy Body and Mind

Carrying excess weight takes a toll on every part of the body. It affects walking, breathing, sleeping and mood, and can have a negative impact on quality of life. Being overweight can also increase the risk of developing serious medical conditions. The risk might rise from the stress the heart and joints suffer from carrying extra pounds. Or it may be due to complex changes in hormones and metabolism (how the body uses calories and fat).

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Over-the-Counter Medications — December 2018

Over-the-Counter Medications — December 2018

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Taking These (and Supplements) Safely

Over-the-counter medications (OTC) are easy to find at the store. They offer relief from common health problems like stuffy noses, seasonal allergies and achy muscles. They also can help prevent problems like constipation and nausea. You may feel empowered to solve a health issue without having to see your primary care provider for advice or a prescription.
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Complementing Your Medical Care — October 2018

Complementing Your Medical Care — October 2018

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With Approaches That Benefit Your Health

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 30 percent of adults use healthcare approaches developed outside of mainstream western medicine. These approaches are called complementary and alternative —terms that are often used interchangeably. However, it is important to note that they are different.

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Calcium and Vitamin D — September 2018

Calcium and Vitamin D — September 2018

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Essential Nutrients that Work Hand-in-Hand

No matter our age, our bodies need calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth, as well as other important functions. However, without enough vitamin D, calcium can’t be absorbed by the body. What happens then? The body draws from calcium stored in the bones, which weakens them and can lead to osteoporosis, a condition where bones become fragile, brittle and prone to breaks. Maintaining calcium and vitamin D levels in a healthy range over your lifetime can help prevent the risks of weak bones, teeth and other potential issues.

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Common Medical Conditions — August 2018

Common Medical Conditions — August 2018

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Can They Be Prevented or Reversed?

Heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. One in two adults has a chronic disease and one in four has two or more, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

When it comes to our health, there are things we can’t control and those that we can try to influence. We can’t change our genetic makeup, gender, race or age—some of the factors that can make us more likely to develop a chronic medical condition. However, many health conditions are caused by lifestyle factors that we do have some ability to manage—our diet, exercise, stress management, weight and smoking habits.

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Ah, Summertime! — July 2018

Ah, Summertime! — July 2018

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How to Enjoy It While Staying Safe

Picnics, roasting marshmallows, swimming, camping, fishing—you name it—these are the treasures of summer. With longer days and schools closed, summer often means vacation time. But even if your summer doesn’t include a vacation, you’ve likely shed some layers and are spending more time outdoors. Being outside is a great way to reboot and revive the mind. To make the most of this more relaxed season, remember to take a few precautions to keep you and your family safe.

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Working Smart — June 2018

Working Smart — June 2018

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Finding Your Way to Workplace Wellness

Fulltime workers spend, on average, more than one-third of their day, five days per week at their place of work. We rely heavily on the fruits of our labor: skills, confidence, camaraderie, and most importantly, an income. Since our work life is so important to our livelihood, it makes sense to work smart. Workplace health and wellness includes activities and policies designed to promote the well-being of employees, support health behavior in the workplace, and decrease the risks of injuries. Employees can experience greater job satisfaction by making some key adjustments in the workplace.

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The Path to Emotional Wellness — May 2018

The Path to Emotional Wellness — May 2018

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How to Improve Your Resiliency

Your mental health and wellness affects practically every aspect of your life—how you think, feel and act at home and work, with family, friends, colleagues and the general public. People who are emotionally healthy tend to go about their day with a sense of purpose. They engage in enjoyable activities and balance them with their work and family life. They have fulfilling relationships and have a positive outlook.

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Why It’s Important to Have a PCP — April 2018

Why It’s Important to Have a PCP — April 2018

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And What to Do When Your PCP Isn’t Available

Your primary care provider (PCP) is that professional you see every year or so for preventive screening or more often if you are managing ongoing health concerns. S/he’s also the one you call when you get sick or develop concerning new symptoms. But, what if your PCP isn’t available? Your options depend upon the circumstances.

Wait, Back Up!

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Is Personalized Medicine for You? — January 2018

Is Personalized Medicine for You? — January 2018

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Evolving Field of Medicine Offers Promise

Healthcare providers have always sought to individualize care for their patients. But now, advances in medical research allow providers to study a person’s genes, offering another tool to guide decisions about preventing, diagnosing and treating disease. Personalized medicine, also called precision or individualized medicine, is an evolving field where providers use genetic testing to understand how a person’s disease risks are unique. Used alongside information about family history, symptoms and environmental factors, genetic testing can help providers prevent illness and/or determine which treatments will work best.

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How Walking Can Extend Life — December 2017

How Walking Can Extend Life — December 2017

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Even Minimal Walking Offers Health Benefits

You don’t have to run or bike intensively to get the health advantages of regular exercise. A new study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM) showed that 120 minutes or less of moderate-intensity walking each week can add longevity to your life. 120 minutes? That’s less than 18 minutes a day!

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Confusing Cancer Terminology — November 2017

Confusing Cancer Terminology — November 2017

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Making Sense During Difficult Times

Almost 13 million people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer every year. People may experience unexplained pain, weight loss, fatigue and other symptoms followed by screening tests, imaging, and maybe biopsies before getting the dreaded diagnosis. Learning that you or a loved one has cancer is overwhelming and stressful.

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It’s Not Just Flu Shot Season — October 2017

It’s Not Just Flu Shot Season — October 2017

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Time to Review Your Vaccination Status

Vaccines are among the most cost-effective prevention services around. They do more than protect you from getting preventable diseases; they also reduce the spread of disease. If you’ve been vaccinated for an infectious disease (measles, chickenpox, hepatitis, influenza, etc.), you greatly reduce the risk of getting that disease and the chance of spreading it to others who are not immune.

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Suffer From Low Back Pain? — September 2017

Suffer From Low Back Pain? — September 2017

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A Look at Alternative/Complementary Therapies

The U.S. spends $90 billion a year on back pain! That’s more than the combined cost of care for high blood pressure, pregnancy AND depression. Back pain is one of the top reasons people see their doctor and the leading reason people miss work. Lost time and productivity is estimated to cost another $10-20 billion.

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Deprescribing: A Growing Trend — August 2017

Deprescribing: A Growing Trend — August 2017

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What Was Good Then May Not Be Now

It is becoming more and more common for people to take five or more medications. The more medications a person takes, the greater their risk for negative health outcomes, such as reduced quality of life, increased side effects, drug interactions, physical or mental impairment, falls, addiction, hospitalization or even, death. The use of some medications, especially as people age or become sicker, can do more harm than good. There is also greater risk of taking them incorrectly—the more medications, the more confusion.

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Preventing Surprise Medical Bills — July 2017

Preventing Surprise Medical Bills — July 2017

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What to Do If You Get One

An unexpected medical bill can be a very unpleasant surprise. It is a bill for a medical service that you did not expect to receive because you thought your insurance would cover it. Surprise bills are becoming more common as our healthcare system becomes more complex and insurance companies reduce the number of providers in their network or exclude coverage for out-of-network services.

The best way to avoid surprise medical bills is to prevent them. It’s not always possible, but there are ways to minimize the risk.

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The Opioid Epidemic — May 2017

The Opioid Epidemic — May 2017

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Taking Ownership and Being Part of the Solution

You’ve heard the news reports about the dangers of opioid medications such as codeine, morphine, methadone, fentanyl, hydrocodone and oxycodone. While opioids can be an appropriate and effective treatment for pain, the U.S. has the highest rates of opioid use in the world. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 80% of the world’s prescribed opioids are used in the U.S. Great risk comes with such widespread use. From 2010 to 2015, more than 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses.

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Shared Healthcare Decision-Making — April 2017

Shared Healthcare Decision-Making — April 2017

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How to Improve Outcomes and Decrease Costs

Numerous studies performed in the last 10 years suggest that patients who actively participate in making healthcare decisions with their doctors report greater satisfaction with their care, better outcomes and lower costs. For example, a study reported in Health Affairs of 33,163 patients at a large healthcare facility in Minnesota showed that better informed patients cost less to treat. In the first year of the study, knowledgeable patients had 8% lower treatment costs, and, in the first half of the following year, 21% lower costs, than less involved patients.

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