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How To Help Prevent Medical Errors and Medical Malpractice

Every week, preventable medical mistakes in hospitals across the United States kill enough patients to fill four jumbo jets. This statistic is very concerning–especially considering it does not include medical errors that happen outside of hospitals.

During Monday’s segment of 1-800-LAW-CALL, Partner Philip C. Federico explains why a big part of reducing the country’s rate of medical errors and medical malpractice involves patients becoming more active health care consumers.

As Mr. Federico points out, it is always better to err on the side of more information when it comes to your health because the more you know, the better you can be prepared.

Based on recent information from AARP, Mr. Federico offers 10 tips for reducing your risk of being harmed by medical errors:

1. Do your homework. Before your appointment, learn about your illness or condition by performing research on the Internet, noting any questions you may want to ask when you consult with your doctor. Websites like WebMD.com and Mayoclinic.com are excellent resources. Additionally, you can search for information about your doctor. Be sure to check for board certifications, as well as any history of medical malpractice. Don’t, however, use the Internet only to make a self-diagnosis.

2. Don’t be intimidated. While it can be scary to go to the hospital, and doctors may come across extremely busy or rushed, don’t be afraid to speak up so that your needs are addressed, or slow them down to get clarity on recommended procedures or tests. Remember that doctors and nurses are people, too, and they will respect your desire to know what is going on.

3. Ask questions. Before your appointment, write down a list of questions for your doctor. Below are a few good questions you should always ask. As mentioned above, if you don’t understand something, make sure you ask for clarification.

  • Why are you giving me this test or procedure? Do I really need it?
  • What are the risks associated with this procedure?
  • What are the benefits?
  • Are there alternatives?

4. Bring along an advocate. Whether it is a friend or family member, having another person with you during check-in and discharge can help ensure you receive the proper treatment.

5. Use hand sanitizer. This is one of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of infection while you are in the hospital. Also, make sure that any nurses or doctors have washed their hands before treating you.

6. Carry a medical notebook. Keep notes of questions and information that allows you to better communicate with your medical providers. Document your allergies, prescriptions, and reasons for taking the medication, and who prescribed them to you. You should also write down important feedback from doctors and next steps from appointments and hospital stays.

7. Ask for a referral. If you have an injury or condition that requires a specialist, ask your doctor for recommendations.

8. Get a second opinion. You should always get a second opinion from another doctor before moving forward with a significant procedure, as there may be alternatives.

9. Be on the same page. Before your surgery, check to make sure everyone is in agreement about the procedure.

10. Follow up. As a patient you should make sure you understand all of the discharge instruction that are being given to you.  You should also make sure that you have received and understand all of your test results. As a patient, you should follow up with your healthcare provider as recommended.  If you are not clear on your discharge instructions, test results, and/or need for follow up, ask your doctor to explain.

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