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Consumers

Before You Go to the Hospital

When you get involved in your health care, quality improves, results are better, and you’re more satisfied. Being involved in your care is easier and more important than ever.

If your doctor decides that you need care at the hospital, use the information below to get involved in your care.

A Checklist Before You Go to the Hospital:

  • Understand your care
  • Name an advocate
  • Know your medical history
  • List your medications or bring them along
  • Prepare an advance health care directive
  • Follow all instructions

Understand Your Care

Make sure you understand why your doctor wants you to go to the hospital and what procedure or treatment the doctor wants to do. Before agreeing to it, you and your doctor should discuss:

  • Why it’s needed
  • Risks and benefits
  • Side effects
  • Possible poor outcomes
  • Other treatment options, including none at all

Talk to your health insurance company about the procedure or treatment to make sure it’s covered under your plan.

Name an Advocate

Before you go to the hospital, ask a friend or family member to help you while you’re in the hospital. If you’re too sick or worried, your advocate can tell doctors about your health care choices, ask questions and write down answers, and keep copies of important medical papers.

It’s best if your advocate can be with you when you go to the hospital, visit you each day you’re in the hospital, and be with you when you leave the hospital. You and your advocate should have a notebook and a pen to write down important information or questions. Tell your medical team who your advocate is and describe how they will be involved.

If you don’t have an advocate, check with the hospital to see if they have professional advocates available and how they can help you.

Know Your Medical History

Even though your medical history may have been sent to the hospital before you arrive, you should be able to talk to your medical team about past illnesses, immunizations, allergies, hospitalizations, and medical conditions that run in your family.

List Your Medications

Many people take more than one medication. Because it’s possible for medicines to combine and cause health problems, bring a list to the hospital of all medicines you take (including vitamins and minerals, herbal or dietary supplements), the amount of each dose, the time you take each dose, and any side effects or reactions you’ve had.

If you are not able to make a list, take your medications with you and someone at the hospital will review them with you.

Prepare an Advance Health Care Directive

If you haven’t prepared an advance health care directive, consider writing one before you go to the hospital. The documents include important information about the health care you want to receive if you are unable to tell your doctor:

  • Living Will—this allows you to write your choices about life support and other medical care
  • Health Care Power of Attorney—this allows you to write the name of the person you want to make health care choices for you

Additional information on these documents is available under the Advance Care Planning section.

Follow All Instructions

You may receive instructions before you go to the hospital (such as to stop eating or drinking after a certain time or to stop taking certain medications). It’s very important that you understand all your instructions and follow them carefully. If you have questions about the instructions, call your doctor or hospital.

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