We all know the disturbing statistics regarding medical errors and how they affect families and loved ones. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly half of medical errors are preventable. These errors cost us over $1 billion each year. While these numbers are daunting, there are steps each of us can take to avoid medical errors. Here are some of them:
1)Make sure you complete the medical forms accurately and completely. This may seem obvious, but some medical errors begin with incorrect or incomplete information on these very forms. Never assume that the doctor knows your medical history or your family’s history. Nothing should be overlooked, including medications including vitamins and supplements.
2)Ask to see your medical records. If there are errors or miscommunications in the records, this is your opportunity to correct them. A recent study of physicians reveals that they are receptive to such patient involvement, so don’t hesitate to ask.
3)If your physician recommends a course of treatment, get a second opinion. After all, it’s your health and a second or third opinion may shed light on different treatment options.
4)Bring a friend and make sure someone is taking good notes regarding your communications with all medical staff. Too often, medical rounds become like a “drive-by” experience and the patient doesn’t have the opportunity to digest the information conveyed or ask appropriate questions. A friend who is able to take notes may be your best resource for follow-up questions.
Hospitals and doctor visits can be intimidating, especially when you are sick or faced with a serious medical condition. However, all of us have a responsibility to take charge of our healthcare and get involved. Once we succumb to a “victim” mentality the preventable medical errors of which we wrote earlier become all that more likely to occur.
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