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Talk to your care team if you need to address an issue or have concerns about your care

No health care professional goes to work intending to harm patients, yet mistakes do happen. Patients and their families can play a role in improving patient safety.

If a medical error or other adverse event occurs, you should work with your care team to make sure that your needs are met and to help them prevent something similar from happening to another patient. If possible, start by notifying your provider so that they can address the risk or incident as quickly as possible. This is usually the most productive and efficient way to resolve the problem.

It’s important to talk to someone on your care team if you have concerns about your care. Patients may notice when something seems unusual — even when staff do not. For example, if the pills you usually take are a different color or shape, double-check that your medications weren’t mixed up. Voicing your concerns and asking questions may catch a mistake before it leads to harm.

Speaking up or asking questions can be uncomfortable, especially if you are not feeling well, are in pain, or are lying in a hospital bed. But open communication can help you stay safe by preventing a small issue from becoming a big problem.

It’s usually best to address a concern in the moment. For example, if a nurse is ready to give you a shot but you weren't expecting one, ask what the shot is for and whether he or she can double-check that the doctor ordered it for you.

Or, you may want to wait and speak with someone else on your care team with whom you feel comfortable and can talk freely. This could be your physician or nurse, the nurse manager, or a hospital social worker.

If your complaint isn’t addressed or you don’t feel comfortable talking directly to someone on your care team, reach out to other staff at the facility. Most hospitals have patient relations offices with staff available to meet with patients and discuss their concerns confidentially.

Contact hospital patient relations

Most of the time, start with a face-to-face conversation. And if you can, try to have a family member or friend with you for support and to listen to information from staff.

Often, just bringing an issue to the attention of your care team is enough to be sure the issue is addressed. As a partner in your care, you have the right to have your questions answered respectfully and, to the extent possible with known facts, thoroughly.

If your concern isn’t addressed, you may want to file a complaint directly with the facility or report the mistake to a state agency.

Reporting a mistake or safety concern