Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors

When receiving medical treatment, the possibility of an error occurring is a significant source of stress for many patients. There are, unfortunately, many areas in the health care system where an error can occur.

A patient may receive the wrong type of medication, a test he or she does not need or even an incorrect diagnosis. These errors can cause serious damage, and often require additional medical treatment to correct them. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to help prevent such errors from occurring.

One of the most important elements of patient safety is information. You must ensure that the medical professionals responsible for your care are always kept properly informed. Asking questions and providing truthful and accurate information ensures that there is open communication between you and your doctors. Keeping all your records organized is equally vital, especially when you are dealing with multiple medical professionals at different hospitals and treatment centers. There are also simple checks and practical steps you can take to help increase your safety and reduce the risk of error during your treatment.

Inform Your Doctor

It is easy to assume your doctor knows all the important information regarding your medical history and current medical needs, particularly if he or she has treated you before. However, this assumption can easily lead to a misunderstanding or misdiagnosis. Every time you meet with your doctor, take a moment to make sure he or she is familiar with your case and history. Even if your doctor seems to be aware of your issues, it is good to confirm your information with your doctor. This allows him or her to double check your paperwork and make sure everything is up to date.

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Keeping your doctor informed is particularly important when it comes to medication. He or she must be aware of any allergies or reactions to medications you have. If there are any medications you take already, always bring them with you to a doctor’s appointment. Some medications can react with others, and your doctor must know of any potential dangers before deciding on a treatment.

Check Your Medication

Taking the wrong medication can result in serious consequences on your health. Therefore, it is always important to ensure you have the correct medication and understand exactly what you are taking. Make sure to ask your doctor about the medication when it is prescribed so that you know what it is for, and the effects it is supposed to have on you. Keep the following factors in mind whenever you get a new prescription:

  • Side effects are possible with any medication, so ask your doctor in advance and learn what you can do to manage them.
  • Interactions between different medications, or medications and food, can be dangerous. Find out is anything you must take or avoid while on your medication.
  • Dosage is especially important for medication safety. Make sure to write down any information the doctor gives it to you, including how much medication you must take, and how often. In addition, always use a proper measuring device when necessary for liquid medication.
  • Storage is important for certain medications. Check whether you need to store yours in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
  • Misreading a prescription or label can easily result in a medication error. Make sure you can read the prescription you are given. It is important that you double check the label of the medication you receive, to ensure that it matches the information the doctor gave you.

Coordinate Care

When your medical needs require multiple health care professionals and settings, the possibility for errors increases. For example, information may be lost between doctors, or there may be some disagreement about how best to treat you. Because of this, it is important to ensure your care is being coordinated appropriately.

Having your primary care physician coordinate your care is one of the best options. He or she has the greatest familiarity with your current health, and your medical history. Make sure your doctor is ready to provide this service for your care. You can also play an important part in coordinating your own care to help reduce the chance of errors. To do this, keep comprehensive notes on all diagnoses, interactions with health care professionals, appointments and medications so you can stay informed and aware of your needs.

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Involving your friends and family is another great way to keep track of your medical information. Make sure you have at least one friend or family member who is familiar with your case and has access to any necessary notes. Having someone accompany you to medical appointments is also recommended.

Ask Questions

Do not hesitate to ask questions during any of your appointments, tests or treatments. It is important that you are always fully aware of the reasons behind any medication, test or procedure you are given. Ask what results to expect from your treatment, even if they are explained to you in simplified terms. This will help you to better communicate any changes you experience. After you have a test, ask when you will receive the results, and what they might mean.

You can ask your primary care doctor these questions, as well as any specialists you interact with. Asking your nurses is often helpful as well, as they are usually familiar with the details of your treatment. While it is important to remain courteous in order to ensure the best possible communication, try not to let discomfort stop you from asking necessary questions.

Hospital Care

When receiving care from a hospital, there are some additional measures you can take for your safety. These facilities are often busier than doctor offices, which means you are even more responsible for properly communicating your needs. Utilize these tips to ensure you get the care you need and avoid any miscommunications or errors:

  • If you can choose the hospital where you are treated, look for facilities experienced with the treatment or procedure you require.
  • Ask about your treatment and medication, and always make sure the medication you are given is correct. In addition, ask about the safety measures taken for any high-alert medication with a risk of severe side effects.
  • Ensure all friends, family and staff with whom you come into contact have washed their hands, as this helps prevent infections.
  • If receiving surgery, make sure your doctor and surgeon agree on the necessity and nature of the procedure.
  • Ask a friend or family member to assist you throughout your stay at the hospital, particularly if you are unable to stay informed on all medical matters.
  • When you are discharged, take some time to go over your outpatient treatment plan, as well as the home care you need.

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