Taking an active role in one’s health can prevent medical errors

aClinicTools2_vectorstock_23332735333697_sAlthough many Nevada residents rely on the medical expertise of health care professionals to provide adequate care in their time of need, medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. According to the Journal of Patient Safety, experts estimate that up to 425,000 people die each year as a result of medical errors. Rather than complacently accepting medical treatment and advice, Americans are urged to play a more active role in their health care in order to minimize the likelihood that a medical error may occur.

Understanding medical errors

From hospitals and surgical centers to pharmacies and nursing homes, medical errors can happen in a wide variety of health care settings. A study from Johns Hopkins University reports that operating room errors involving retained surgical tools occur more than 4,000 times a year. A physician can also make a misdiagnosis, misread a lab report or perform the wrong procedure on the wrong patient, which can have devastating, and sometimes fatal consequences. Medical professionals are human and for many, mistakes are inevitable. Errors can be limited, however, if the patient is included as a major part of their health care team, takes control of their medical care and understands exactly what is going on at all times.

What people can do to stay safe 

Fortunately, there are things that patients can do to limit their exposure to medical malpractice. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s Agency for Health care Research and Quality, patients can:

  • Inform their doctor of any medications they are taking, including over-the-counter supplements, as well as any allergies or adverse reactions to medications they have.
  • Double check any prescriptions they receive from the doctor, and then check them again once they receive the medication from the pharmacy. People should make sure they know exactly how to take the medication, and ask any questions if clarification is needed.
  • Make sure that the medication being prescribed does not interact with any of the medications that they are currently taking.
  • Have the doctor and anesthesiologist explain exactly what will occur during the surgical procedure. Before being discharged, patients should be knowledgeable in their post-surgical directions.
  • Have their primary physician coordinate their care with any specialists. This is essential to ensure that different specialists are not duplicating care without the patient’s knowledge.

When patients take a friend or family member to their appointments with them, they may be better able to recall crucial information later on. While many people will have to put their trust in medical professionals at some point in their lives, it is critical to continue asking questions in order to ensure no mistakes are made.