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Tips for patients to prevent medical errors

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, it is estimated that about 14 percent of Medicare patients experience a medical error. A medical error can happen at any stage of one's healthcare delivery. They can occur at the diagnostic stage, during surgical procedures, when writing or picking up a prescription drug, during the interpretation of lab reports, when ordering lab tests and even during routine common procedures.

In many cases patients shy away from speaking up about their health care or questioning their healthcare provider about the care they are receiving, or about the medication they are taking and procedures they are about to undergo. In fact, the DHHS recommends that in order to prevent medical errors, patients should consider themselves part of the health care team and play an active role in their own care.

Some tips to be involved with one's own health care include sharing any allergies one is aware of with their doctor, informing them about any over the counter drugs they may be taking in addition to prescription drugs. In fact, taking any medication one is on with them to a doctor's visit can help the healthcare provider evaluate one's medical needs and consider drug interactions to prevent adverse events.

When one is prescribed a new medication or different dosage it is important to ask the doctor what the new medicine is for, why the dosage has changed, what side effects if any to expect, and how and when to take the medication. Getting information about side effects may help. In addition to asking a doctor or nurse these questions, one can ask the pharmacist these questions as well.

If one feels uncomfortable talking to or questioning a doctor, they may want to consider taking a family member along to the appointment that can be their advocate. Having a family member with may also help retain information that one may forget after it was been relayed.

Communicating with one's healthcare provider and playing an active role in one's own health care can help minimize or prevent medical errors and mistakes.

Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, "20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors," Accessed Jan. 12, 2015

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