Patients should not ever feel responsible for their own safety when they are visiting a health care provider. To be sure, patients should be able to expect that they will receive timely and appropriate care from any healthcare provider, and they should not have to fear that they will suffer an injury because of a healthcare provider’s negligence. Yet as studies show, medical errors occur much more often than many patients even want to consider, accounting for more than 250,000 deaths each year according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. With those statistics, medical mistakes are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. each year.
While patients should not be responsible for making sure they are safe when they seek care or treatment from a doctor, it is also important to be practical and recognize the possibility of serious harm arising out of a medical error. Accordingly, patients should consider some of the steps they can take to reduce the possibility of a serious or fatal medical error. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) highlights some of the following actions for patients to consider, and our Rochester medical malpractice lawyers want to discuss them with you.
Prevent Medication Errors
You may be able to prevent medication mistakes by doing the following:
- Bring written details of the medicines you are taking and make sure your doctor understands before prescribing a drug;
- Remind your doctor about allergies to specific drugs and specifically ask if your allergies will be affected by a new prescription;
- Ask your doctor about any potentially harmful interactions with new medicine and write down any concerns;
- Ask for details about any drug you are prescribed, including what it is for, how long you should take it, and if there is anything that can affect its safety or efficacy; and
- Make sure you have the correct drug and dosage when you pick it up from the pharmacy.
Avoid Surgical Mistakes
Surgical errors can be some of the most devastating for patients, resulting in “never events” that can lead to debilitating and deadly harm such as wrong-site surgery or a surgeon leaving a sponge inside a patient’s body. If you are having any kind of surgical procedure or other invasive procedure, consider the following:
- Check—and double-check—with the doctor performing the surgical procedure that you agree about precisely what the surgery will involve, on which side of the body the surgery will take place;
- Have a surgical procedure done in a hospital or facility where that type of procedure is done on a regular basis, recognizing that an error is less likely if the doctors at the facility are accustomed to performing a particular procedure; and
- Choose a hospital that has a better safety record if possible, recognizing that your chances of suffering a preventable injury increase when a hospital has a poor safety record.
Stop Hospital-Related Injuries
Patients who know that they will be staying in a hospital or receiving treatment in a hospital should also take steps to stop hospital-related injuries. Some of the following steps might feel uncomfortable, but it is important to put your safety and health first. The AHRQ recommends that patients in hospitals and other related inpatient facilities do the following:
- Ask every health care worker who will come into direct contact with you if their hands are washed, recognizing that many hospital-acquired infections can spread through a lack of handwashing;
- Ask questions if you have them, even if you think you might have been given the answer by a doctor, a nurse, or another person at the facility;
- Know the signs of bed sores yourself, and if you are confined to a wheelchair or a bed and notice itching or burning, seek help immediately to prevent bed sores from worsening;
- Ask about the timeline for any test results you are waiting on, and if you do not hear from a doctor on that timeline, speak up; and
- Be sure to ask any questions you have related to your discharge plan.
Contact Our Dedicated Rochester Medical Malpractice Attorneys
You should never have to wonder if your health care provider is going to make a mistake that could lead to a serious injury or to your death. However, given the high rates of serious and fatal medical errors, it is critical for patients to do what they can to avoid harm. You should remember that, regardless of the steps you took (or did not take) to prevent a medical error, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a health care provider whose negligence caused your injuries.
You are not responsible for preventing medical errors. Whether you took any of the preventive measures discussed above, you may be able to sue a health care provider for harm. A Rochester medical malpractice lawyer at our firm can evaluate your case for you today. Contact Powers & Santola, LLP for more information.