Patients have an important role to play in ensuring they get good medical care

When 62-year-old Rod Larson of Minneapolis was found to have a rapidly worsening bacterial skin infection, his primary care doctor immediately sent him to the hospital.

On arrival, Larson was put in a room and examined by a physician assistant. He didn’t stop at the admissions office because his information and treatment orders already had been placed into the hospital computer system.

Larson was subsequently seen by an internal medicine hospitalist, an infectious-disease doctor and an orthopedic surgeon, who conferred regularly about his care over the next four days. He required 12 days of intravenous antibiotics after discharge; medical supplies were delivered within an hour of his arrival home. A nurse followed shortly to teach him how to administer the medication and give him a 24-hour phone number for a nurse and pharmacist.

The medical teamwork and smooth discharge Larson experienced is known as good coordination of care. It occurs when health-care providers work together to organize care activities; share information with each other, the patient and his caregivers; and agree on their respective roles. Without good coordination of care, risks for medical error rise significantly.

Orly Avitzur, medical adviser to Consumer Reports, offers this advice on how to make sure your doctors are doing it right:

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