Since 2009, Consumers Union’s (CU) Safe Patient Project has been working with a network of California patient safety advocates to end medical harm in California. We’re active in California because we have worked for years with a strong base of advocates who are committed to improving patient safety. All of these advocates have been personally affected by medical harm which has turned them into experts at advocating for patients. Consumers Union provides policy guidance and support for these advocates to testify at California medical board meetings.
This month, California advocates testified at the California Medical Board meeting on several issues that affect the public and transparency; including, improving teleconferencing of medical board meetings to allow for broader public participation; urging the medical board to adopt uniform standards for substance abusing physicians, which would help protect patients from being harmed by impaired doctors; and improving oversight of outpatient surgery centers and improving public access to information about their accreditation history.
Advocate Michele Monserratt-Ramos, who delivered testimony on medical board teleconferencing, said: “I expressed how well the teleconference was managed and how well received it was by advocates who were pleased that the Board had taken this step to increase public participation at their meetings. I felt it was important to deliver this message to the Board as I had approached the Board four years ago to suggest teleconferencing be utilized during their meetings and I wanted to ensure that they received positive feedback and encourage them to expand the teleconferencing project to include the Quarterly Board meetings.”
Carole Moss, co-founder of Nile’s Project, urged the board to improve its oversight of outpatient surgery centers. She said, “My testimony at the February 7th and 8th highlighted the importance of the Board’s oversight and razor sharp focus on preventing deadly infections like MRSA, VRE, CRE and C.diff in all outpatient surgical centers by mandating compliance of California State Laws for infection prevention.” Carole and her husband Ty lost their 15-year-old son Nile from a MRSA infection.
While we are making progress in California, much work still needs our attention. Michele encourages Californians to participate in medical board meetings. “The more advocates the Board sees engaging with them on issues the more they will work with us on improving the issues with physician accountability, transparency, and consumer protection,” she said.
When people have more information about a hospital or doctor’s track record on medical harm, they can become more empowered to keep their loved ones safe and hold health care providers accountable. Carole suggests to patients: “Everyone needs to thoroughly investigate a prospective physician before trusting them with your healthcare. Make sure that a surgeon is qualified and has a good record of many successful cases in the area of care you are looking for. Second opinions are critical.”
Jack French advises to patients, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak up when you don’t understand what a doctor or other professional is telling you. Make sure you receive an answer that you understand.”
Consumer participation is critical to making patient safety concerns known to the medical board. Ty Moss urges more people to get involved. “Consumers and patients, get involved with some level of advocacy, and, make any concerns known, as we have to make a difference in our state,” he said. “It’s our rights and it’s up to us to do something.”
Do you have a story about medical harm? Please share it with us here to help us improve the safety of health care. To learn more about our California Safe Patient Network, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at @CUsafepatient.