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     Attorney Ronald E. Johnson of Schachter & Hendy concentrates on legal issues surrounding medical mistakes.  A recent report from ABC News says the chance of a serious medical mistake is small, but errors do happen. A report published in April by HealthGrades surveyed Medicare hospital records and found that nearly 3% of patients were at risk of some kind of medical error.Some studies say that at least 80% of medical errors are from patients not taking the correct medicine or taking the wrong dosage.

The Boston Globe reports that there were 36 times in the past four years where surgeons operated on the wrong place or the wrong patient in Massachusetts hospitals. And Women’sHealth.about.com reports that the Institute of Medicine estimates that 44,000-98,000 people die from medical errors in hospitals each year.

Some hospitals and surgeons are implementing procedures to minimize these mistakes.  Medical errors can occur in a variety of places—doctor’s offices, labs, hospitals, pharmacies, or surgeries. Errors can happen because of actual mistakes such as prescribing medicine that a patient is allergic to, or just a lack of communication between patient and doctor. A recent study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that patients who are uninformed or uninvolved in their own care may not follow a doctor’s treatment, and doctors sometimes don’t do enough to help patients make informed decisions.

Women’s Health reports that government agencies and health care providers are developing procedures to make sure patients stay safe. They’ve put together a list of tips patients can follow to make sure they get safe medical care:

 

  • be informed and a part of making decisions about their your care plan
  • make sure all your doctors know about the medicines and supplements you take
  • let doctors know of any allergies or bad reactions to medicines
  • make sure you can read a written prescription
  •  ask for more information about medicines so you understand what you’re taking
  • ask for more information about medicines so you understand what you’re taking
  •  make sure you understand all of the directions for taking the medicine
  • ask the pharmacist for the right device for measuring liquid medicine to get the correct dose
  •  be sure to understand the possible side effects of different medications
  •  choose a hospital that specializes in your type of surgical procedure
  •  ask all health care workers in the hospital to wash their hands
  • make sure you understand your treatment plan after you leave the hospital
  • before a surgical procedure make sure you and the doctor communicate clearly
  • ask a friend of relative to be your advocate in the hospital
 

u    ask the pharmacist for the right device for measuring liquid medicine to get the correct dose

u    be sure to understand the possible side effects of different medications

u    choose a hospital that specializes in your type of surgical procedure

u    ask all health care workers in the hospital to wash their hands

u    make sure you understand your treatment plan after you leave the hospital

u    before a surgical procedure make sure you and the doctor communicate clearly

u    ask a friend of relative to be your advocate in the hospit

 

For more information, go to the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse: phone, 1-800-358-9295 (outside the United States, please call 410-381-3150) or E-mail: ahrqpubs@ahrq.gov.

 

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