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Tips for Preventing Medical Mistakes
Outside the Hospital
- Keep a record of your medical history, including lab, medicines, x-rays, and procedure reports.
- Call about test results if you do not receive them in the time expected.
- Tell every doctor about your allergies, as well as any medicines, supplements, and herbal remedies you take.
- Document adverse reactions to medicines.
- Make a list of your doctors, your pharmacy, and other providers. Give it to new members of your healthcare team.
- Research the credentials of any potential provider.
- Take a list of questions to your doctor’s visit. Write down the answers or ask someone to accompany you.
- If your English skills are limited, have a translator go with you to your doctor's appointments.
- Make sure you can read the prescriptions.
- Know what drugs are for, the amount you should be taking, how to take them, and potential side effects.
- If you need a procedure, ask who will administer the anesthesia and insist on meeting the person to review your medical needs. Ask how you will be monitored.
- Check the hospital’s reputation, its accreditation, and Magnet status. Magnet status is an award given to hospitals that have outstanding nurses.
In the Hospital
- Remind caregivers to wash their hands. It prevents the spread of infection. Or post a sign.
- If you are having surgery, make sure they mark the correct site.
- Ask the name of the registered nurse responsible for your care during each shift. If you have a question, direct it to him or her.
- Avoid distracting caregivers while they provide care. Wait until the task is finished.
- Check medicines before swallowing. If they do not look right, ask.
- Remind staff about allergies, especially for things routinely used, such as latex or iodine.
- Understand why tests are being done.
- Before leaving, understand what follow-up care you will need and how you will get it.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality http://www.ahrq.gov
National Patient Safety Foundation http://www.npsf.org/
Canadian Patient Safety Institute http://www.patientsafetyinstitute.ca/
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/
20 tips to prevent medical errors: Patient fact sheet. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website. Available at: http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/20tips.htm. Published September 2011. Accessed June 18, 2012.
Medical errors: tips to help prevent them. FamilyDoctor.org website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/healthcare-management/self-care/medical-errors-tips-to-help-prevent-them.html. Updated November 2010. Accessed June 18, 2012.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 06/2012
- Update Date: 06/18/2012