As a patient, you can take some steps to lessen your chances of becoming the victim of a medical error. These actions include:
Inquiring about better alternatives to the procedure you’ve been recommended. Visit choosingwisely.org for information about which treatments may be unnecessary.
Choosing a Hospital or Surgery Center, whenever possible, that performs a high-volume of the procedure you need to undergo. Studies show such places and physicians tend to have better outcomes for that procedure.
Verifying that your vaccinations are up to date before you’re admitted to the hospital.
Telling your doctor, nurse, pharmacist and anyone else involved in your care about what medications you’re taking. Arrive at the hospital or surgery center with your full list of drugs and be honest about any other self–medication. That includes dietary supplements, vitamins, herbs and recreational drugs.
Listing any medications you shouldn’t take because of reasons such as allergic reactions or other known adverse outcomes.
Making sure all medications you receive in the hospital or surgery center, including through syringes, tubes, bags and pill bottles, have labels. Don’t be afraid to read these labels to see if they match what your physician prescribed.
Asking caregivers to wash their hands before they tend to you. Unwashed hands are a very common way of spreading infection in hospitals and surgery centers.
Finding out whether your surgeon uses a checklist for your operation. Research shows that such checklists, even simple ones that include steps for preventing infection, can significantly lessen the error rate.
Confirming with nurses, imaging technicians, anesthesiologists and your doctor that they have correctly identified the part of your body targeted for a procedure. For example, all of your caregivers should agree on which kidney, knee or arm, etc is slated for surgery. One common step is for the surgeon to mark the area targeted for surgery.
Requesting an update each day on when your central-line or urinary catheter can be removed. Studies show that catheters, a prime source of infection, are often left in place long after they’re no longer needed.
Going over all medication instructions before leaving the hospital or surgery center.
Asking as many questions as you need. If you don’t understand something your caregivers are about to do, speak up. Doctors, nurses and other caregivers should take action based on your consent.
Sources: U.S CDC and AAFP