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Teaching Hospitals Use Team Approach to Medical Care

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"Many people place physicians on a pedestal and are frustrated by the two-minute doctor," says Rick Wade, senior vice president of the American Hospital Association. "But ultimately, patients have to learn how to connect the dots" by providing the doctors with all the information they can.

"People with chronic illnesses should write down their medical history and carry it at all times," Wade tells WebMD. "A complete list of prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and dietary supplements helps too, especially in the fast-paced world of the emergency department."

Not only should you be involved in all aspects of your care, but you have a right to be, according to the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. This means knowing which team members can authorize treatment, plus the risks and benefits of treatment options.

After a serious car accident, one physician learned this lesson the hard way. "I needed surgery quickly, but I had to insist that they slow down and answer my questions about the procedure," says Mack Lipkin, MD, director of the primary care residency program and professor of medicine at New York University.

Lipkin tells WebMD that as interns begin their residency, hospital functions can slow down a bit. "Studies show that there's no change in quality of care at this time of year, but it's a good idea to have some extra family support along with you," he advises.

Consumer advocates couldn't agree more. "Just say no, if you're confused about the treatment plan," says Charles Inlander, president of People's Medical Society and co-author of Take This

Book to the Hospital With You. "You're not in custody, you're the customer. And regardless of visiting hours, you can have an advocate present around the clock".

While mourning the death of her husband, one woman regrets leaving his bedside. "At the time, I didn't know that I could've stayed after visiting hours," says Mary Albright, 71, a former teacher and grandmother of three. "Bill might have been more relaxed and less afraid if I'd been there all night. Besides, it's good to have two pairs of ears when the doctors come around in the morning."

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