How can I prevent medical errors?
It may be difficult to imagine your trusted medical professionals making a mistake, but unfortunately it happens all too often. In fact, medical negligence is now the third leading cause of death in the United States. Errors can happen anywhere in the medical system – hospitals, clinics, offices, nursing homes, pharmacies, etc. – and can happen during the most complicated procedures or the most routine tasks.
As a patient, you are not powerless in these situations. Just because you may not have any medical training does not mean that you cannot play an active and important role in protecting yourself from medical negligence. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently published a list of 20 tips for patients to help prevent becoming victims of medical errors. Here are some of the most important to remember:
- Make sure your medical professionals are aware of all medications you are taking. Whether it’s prescription medicine, over-the-counter medicine, or dietary supplements, let your doctor know. Without the most up-to-date information on your medicine/supplements, doctors and nurse practitioners may accidentally prescribe a medication that dangerously conflicts with something you are already taking.
- Ask plenty of questions when your medications are prescribed and when you receive them. For example:
- What is this medicine for?
- How long should I take it?
- How much am I supposed to take?
- What side effects are likely, and what should I do if they occur?
- Is this medicine safe considering the other medicine and dietary supplements I am taking?
- Is there a specific time I should take the medicine?
- Should I avoid any specific food, drink, or activity while taking the medicine?
- When you get a prescription, make sure you can read it. Then, when you pick up your medicine from the pharmacy, check it against the prescription. It is possible for pharmacies to fill a prescription incorrectly, putting the wrong medication in your bag or bottle. This accident is easily fixed if you double check your prescription but can have serious consequences if unchecked.
- In the hospital, do not be afraid to ask medical professionals if they have washed their hands before touching you. Washing hands helps to prevent the spread of infection, and you are especially susceptible to infection while in the hospital.
- If you are undergoing surgery, make sure that you, your physician, and your surgeon all agree on what procedure will be done. Although it is rare for surgeons to operate on the wrong site, even once in a million surgeries is still too often, especially because wrong-site surgery is entirely preventable.
- If possible, choose a hospital where many patients have received the surgery or treatment you need. Research suggests that patients are more likely to have better results when treated in hospitals with a great deal of experience in their specific surgery or procedure.
- Make sure all your medical professionals have the most up-to-date information on your condition, especially if you are seeing multiple doctors. The more information your doctors have, the better they can understand and treat your condition. It never hurts to confirm that your doctor has updated information, and it can prevent many medical errors.
- When in doubt, ask questions. And, if you don’t get answers, keep asking!
You can never be certain that no medical errors will occur, but by playing an active role in your care, you can help reduce the risk of potentially fatal errors.
We care about patient safety.
When a preventable, catastrophic medical error does occur, we work hard to hold the hospital or medical professional accountable. We strive to obtain the compensation necessary to allow the injured person to live their life to its fullest potential or to help grieving family members recover from the death of a loved one. Holding doctors and hospitals accountable for their mistakes also helps improve patient safety, as doctors and hospitals work to avoid similar mistakes in the future. We take pride in knowing that our cases have contributed to better hospital policies, more careful physician examinations, and better doctor-patient communications. We hope the above tips help you to stay safe while in the hospital or doctor’s office.
If you were injured by the negligence of a medical professional, contact our Cleveland medical malpractice attorneys today
At The Eisen Law Firm, our Cleveland medical malpractice attorneys are experienced in all types of medical error claims. To schedule a free consultation with our skilled legal team, call 216-687-0900 or contact us online.