Tips on protecting yourself against medical errors

aStethascope_vectorstock_2078557Patients put an immense amount of trust in their Chicago healthcare workers when they seek their expertise. All too often, however, patients are left injured or worse off due to a worker’s mistakes. Healthcare quality experts recently testified at a senate subcommittee hearing and stated that preventable medical errors kill over 400,000 people across the nation each year. With such high occurrences of error throughout the medical profession, patients should be proactive in preventing themselves from becoming victims.

What constitutes a medical error?

Medical malpractice, which occurs when healthcare professionals err, happens on a daily basis in hospitals, surgery centers, nursing homes, clinics and pharmacies. Medical errors occur when healthcare workers cause a preventable adverse event that has the potential to cause harm to a patient. In addition to misdiagnosis, errors can also include prescribing improper medication, performing surgery on the wrong body part or person, and retained objects following a surgery, among others.

Medication

 Patients should be forthright about the doses and frequency of use for each of the medications that they take, even if it seems like an inconsequential over-the-counter pill. If doctors don’t know what chemicals are in the body, they have no way of preventing an adverse interaction. Write the information down to take to appointments, or bring the bottles themselves to ensure that the doc is fully informed. Those with a history of adverse reactions or allergies should also share that information with doctors.

Hospital Stays and surgery

Hospitals are constantly battling against bacteria and viruses, which often get passed to patients while they are at the hospital in conditions healthcare workers call nosocomial infections. To combat these potentially deadly infections, patients should ask anyone who enters their room to wash their hands. Patients should also get clear instructions from their doctors regarding their treatment plan after they are discharged from the hospital, including medications, safe and approved activities, and follow-up appointments.

Prior to any surgery, patients should ensure that they understand the procedure, and that both their regular doctor and surgeon agree with them on what is going to be done. Prior to any operation, surgeons should directly sign the surgery site as a final part of preparations.

General prevention

The best defense against individuals becoming injured patients is for them to never fear asking too many questions or speaking up about their concerns. Patients should ask as many questions as possible about any test, medication or procedure a doctor recommends before they put it to use. If a doctor gets agitated or is unwilling to answer questions, seek out a new doctor who will be forthright and respectful of a patient’s right to receive this information prior to treatment. Those who are facing the effects of a medical error can consult with a Chicago attorney regarding their matter.