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Tips To Help Avoid Medical Errors

Preventable medical errors, which are caused when a healthcare provider either chooses an inappropriate treatment or chooses the appropriate treatment but executes it incorrectly, are conservatively estimated to injure 1.5 million people every year and to cost $19.5 billion in additional treat­ment. In addition, errors related to medications harm 1.5 million people a year and cost another $3.5 billion to treat. So what can you do to reduce the chances that you will be the victim of such an error?


The most important thing you can do is to talk with your healthcare provider and to take an active role in your own treatment plan. Ask questions. Try to determine how familiar your doctor is with the treatment recommended and or the medicine prescribed. Make sure you know how to take your prescription drugs, including how often and whether with or without food or water, and what the possible side effects are. Do not make any assumptions, and if you don’t understand what you are told, ask again. Again proper communication is the key. Describe in detail all of your symptoms to your healthcare provider. Be sure to tell him/her everything you are taking not just your prescriptions, but also over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, supplements and or even illicit drugs. Doctors need to have all the information to ensure that the treatment or drug prescribed is the right one for you.

Double Check

There is also nothing wrong with acting as a backstop for your medical provider. For example, when the doctor writes out a prescription, make sure you can read it. We have all heard the jokes about doctors’ bad handwriting, so be proactive: If you cannot read it, the pharmacist may not be able to either. Before you leave, review the treatment plan the doctor has given you. Studies show doctors tend to assume that patients understand a lot more of what they have been told than they actually do, and the time to clear up any confusion is before you go home.

Get Active

Take an active role in coordinating your healthcare. Put someone (usually your family physician) in charge of it that; a person that you can trust. This is especially important if you have multiple healthcare issues, which may affect one another in ways that are not fully understood. If more than one provider is involved, make sure that they all have the same understanding of your treatment plan. If surgery is necessary, it is very important that your doctor and your surgeon are “on the same page” about your condition and the procedure to be performed.

Finally, visiting the doctor or hospital can be stressful. It is a good idea to ask a family member or trusted friend to be there with you as your advocate at your appointments, someone who can help you make sure all these things happen and even take notes on all that has been discussed.

Most of the time doctors, nurses and pharmacists provide excellent medical care. All humans however make mistakes. These commonsense tips can help you avoid those kinds of medical errors and prevent you from becoming a statistic.

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