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Prevent medical malpractice -- Be your own advocate, Part 2

In our previous blog, we reviewed some statistics regarding the extent of preventable medical errors in the U.S. hospital industry. In this post, we list some of the steps patients can take to protect themselves from the consequences of medical malpractice while in the hospital.

What can we do to prevent hospital injuries to ourselves and our loved ones? The AARP has issued a list of tips that patients can use to reduce the possibility of errors and resulting harm. These include:

  • Ask questions. Don't be afraid that you might sound stupid.
  • Write down the answers to your questions, your medications and the doctors who prescribed them, your symptoms - anything that could be useful. Carry this information with you in a little notebook.
  • Be sure to tell your doctors, nurses and anyone who will listen about allergies that you have had to medications. Don't assume that because that information is in your records that anyone will read it.
  • When you receive a prescription from a doctor, make sure you can read it and that you know what it is. If you can't read it, the chances are good that the pharmacist won't be able to read it, either.
  • Use hand sanitizer and make sure that anyone who takes care of you uses it, too. Ask nurses and doctors if they have washed their hands. Don't be embarrassed.
  • Bring an advocate. If you can't bring a family member or friend, ask for a hospital advocate or see if you can hire someone. This is especially important during check in and discharge.
  • Ask your primary care doctor for a referral before trying to find a specialist on your own.
  • Make sure that you and everyone else involved in any surgeries understands what is supposed to be done. Don't be afraid to ask them and, if their answer is wrong, get a clarification before proceeding further.
  • Never assume that no news is good news. If you have lab work done and you don't hear anything, follow up.
  • Don't self-diagnose. See a doctor if you think something is wrong.

Until hospitals are better at preventing medical mistakes, patients must take steps like these to protect themselves and their families. Being responsible for your own care is the best way to avoid the consequences of medical mistakes.

Source: Atlanta Legal Examiner, "AARP Warns Patients How To Help Prevent Medical Errors and Medical Malpractice In Hospitals," Apr. 4, 2013.

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