Tips for Preventing Medical Mistakes
Medical mistakes are a common topic in the news from accidental drug overdose to hospital born infection to surgical mistakes. These mistakes cost millions each years and in the worst cases cause major illness, disability, or death. The government and medical institutions are taking many steps to decrease the rates of medical errors, but you have an important role as well. Taking an active role in your healthcare can help prevent medical errors. The following is a list of recommendations to help you stay well:
Outside the Hospital
- Keep a notebook with 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.
- Write down adverse reactions to medicines.
- Make a list of your doctors, your pharmacy, and other providers. Give it to new members of the team.
- Research the credentials of any potential provider.
- Take a list of questions to the 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 do 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.
American Nurses Association
National Patient Safety Foundation
Canadian Patient Safety Institute
The Commonwealth Fund website. Available at: http://www.commonwealthfund.org/ .
Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations website. Available at: http://www.jointcommission.org/.
National Patient Safety Foundation website. Available at: http://www.npsf.org/.
What is Magnet status and how's that whole thing going? The Center for Nursing Advocacy website. Available at: http://www.npsf.org/. Updated October 20, 2008. Accessed April 26, 2010.
Last reviewed April 2010 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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