No one doubts that the current health care system is complex. In many cases patients and their family may feel that they have no control over what happens. But, the reality is that if patients and their families play an active role in how health care is delivered to them, they can help prevent and reduce many of the medical errors and surgical mistakes that routinely occur in hospitals, surgery centers and other healthcare facilities.
Medical errors can happen at any point and can occur when medicines are being dispensed, when equipment is improperly being used, during surgery and/or when lab reports are being interpreted or ordered. But, the good news is that patients can help prevent and minimize medical errors by playing an active role in one’s own health, and making healthcare decisions together with their healthcare provider.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services agency on advancing excellence in healthcare has offered the following tips to reduce and prevent medical errors. When it comes to hospital stays, DHHS encourages patients to ask their healthcare provider such as a nurse or doctor to wash their hands. The simple technique of hand washing can prevent the spread of infections. Additionally, when being discharged from a hospital, patients should ask questions and get answers about any new medicines they may be prescribed to take, and understand any limitations they may have and potential adverse side-effects.
In general when it comes to taking medicines, it is important for patients to communicate to their healthcare provider as to what over-the-counter and prescription drugs they are taking. In fact, bringing a list of the drugs one is taking with to the hospital or clinic may be helpful. Additionally, if one is aware of any allergies, they should inform their doctor. When a prescription is written, make sure to ask the doctor or nurse about side-effects, length of time the drug should be taken, the purpose of the medication, and how and when it should be taken. Additional clarification about the medication can also be asked of the pharmacist.
When it comes to one’s own health, it is not a time to be shy. Being more involved in one’s own healthcare decisions and communicating with one’s healthcare provider such as a doctor, pharmacist and nurse can make a tremendous difference and potentially prevent medical errors from happening.
Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors,” Accessed Jan. 12, 2015