There is nothing wrong with the idea that physicians, surgeons, hospitals and other health care providers should be trusted to do their jobs correctly and prevent instances of medical malpractice that lead to serious injury and even death. But, the truth is that medical mistakes do happen and can have dire consequences.
Patients can help prevent medical mistakes and in doing so, protect themselves from the sometimes life-long consequences of medical negligence. Checklists for medical professionals have proven successful in limiting central-line associated bloodstream infections. Patients can and should create their own checklists to ensure their health and safety as well.
Keep your doctor informed as to all the medications you are taking, whether they are prescription or over-the-counter. Bring everything along with you to appointments or make a list of everything that you are taking to bring with instead.
When you fill a new prescription, be sure to ask about the side effects of the medication and understand the dosing that your doctor has prescribed for you. Particularly with new prescriptions, it is important that your doctor knows about any allergies you may have as well as other drugs you are taking that may interact with the new prescription.
Hospital Stays and Surgery
When any health care provider enters your room, be aware of whether he or she washes or sanitizes their hands before touching you. Preventing the spread of germs can go a long way toward a successful hospital visit.
If you are having surgery, discuss the procedure fully with your doctor. You should understand what is being done and why as well as what you should expect after surgery and after leaving the hospital.
If you have questions, ask. Research has proven that communicating openly with your health care team and taking an active role in your own care results in a better experience overall and may help minimize the occurrence of medical mistakes. Don’t go to appointments or to the hospital alone. Having a family member or trusted friend along with you can help in asking important follow up questions as well as remembering what was discussed at the appointment after it is finished.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors”