According to a recent study by Johns Hopkins, more than 250,000 Americans die each year because of medical errors, making it the third leading cause of death behind cancer and heart disease.
Medical mistakes are not intentional. But they can be prevented.
Any encounter in the healthcare system means there’s a potential for mistakes to happen. The one thing you can do to help prevent medical errors, and stay safe, is to become actively involved in your healthcare.
Here are 7 ways you can avoid medical errors:
1. Understand Your Conditions and Treatments
Know what conditions you have and how they are treated. Ask your medical provider to help you understand. You can also use the internet to do research. Just make sure you use reliable sources such as WebMD or Mayo Clinic.
2. Know Your Medications
Medication errors are common. Make sure you know every medication that you’re taking and what it’s for. Use this Health Summary and Medication Log to help you keep track. Bring your medication list with you to every medical appointment or if you are in the hospital. For more information on managing your medications, check out this Medications Quick Guide.
3. Ask if You Really Need That Test or Procedure
Any time you have a test or procedure, there is potential for an error to occur.
If you’re told you need a test or procedure, don’t just say yes! Always ask why you need it, what would happen if you don’t have it and how it will improve your condition. Even simple blood tests are not always necessary. Some providers order tests out of habit.
Use this checklist when you talk to your provider.
4. Asks Lots of Questions Before You Agree to Surgery
Ask the surgeon why you need surgery and what would happen if you didn’t have it. Also, understand the risk and benefits. Ask your primary care provider what he or she thinks. Always get a second opinion. Use Surgery Quick Guide to help you know what questions to ask.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to Your Medical Provider
Never be afraid to ask questions or talk about your concerns. If your medical provider dismisses you, is condescending or is easily irritated, find another provider.
6. Make Sure Your Care is Coordinated
Many Americans have multiple medical providers. Especially those with chronic or complex conditions. The problem is, most providers don’t communicate. This increases the chance of medical errors happening.
When you go to medical appointments, always bring your updated health summary and medication log. If you’ve recently seen another provider, let the rest of your healthcare team know. Also, keep your team updated on test results and any procedures or surgeries you have.
7. Get a Second Opinion
Even your diagnosis could be an error. If you are diagnosed with a serious illness or are told you need surgery, always get a second opinion.
A study by the Mayo Clinic reported that as many as 88% of patients who seek a second opinion will leave with a refined diagnosis. And 21% will get a very different diagnosis. These findings stress the importance of second (and maybe even third or fourth) opinions.
I hope these tips help you get better, safer care.
It’s Your Health. Take Control.
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