Medical errors cause an astonishing number of injuries each year, and they are one of the most common causes of death in the U.S., according to a study by Johns Hopkins. Luckily, there are several simple steps you can take to help protect yourself and reduce the chances that you’ll suffer the consequences of a medical mistake.
- Take an active role in your medical care.
Ask questions. Get the details. When you are going through a procedure or when you have medications or exercises to do at home, make sure you understand what you’re supposed to do. When you take an active role, you help yourself get better care – and help reduce the risk of errors.
- Get your primary care doctor involved.
Avoid getting medical care from physicians who have only met you once, unless it is an emergency. Instead, make your primary care doctor your “first stop” for all your treatment. No matter where you are treated, make sure that the office sends copies of the treatment records to your primary care doctor. This helps ensure that the person who knows the most about your general health oversees your medical care.
- List all your medications (and all your allergies).
If you take several meds, or if you have multiple allergies, consider writing out a list and giving copies to each doctor. Include all over the counter medications and supplements you take as well. Many vitamins and supplements can interact with medications, so it’s important that your doctors know everything you take.
- Ask about the right dosage.
One of the most common medical errors made is in prescribing or dispensing the wrong dosage of a medication. Double-check with the doctor and the pharmacist to make sure you are getting the right dose as well as the right medication.
- Follow up on test results.
Just because you haven’t heard that something is wrong doesn’t mean that everything is right. Follow up and ask for test results back. Even doctor’s offices that have a policy of not reporting “normal” results to patients will tell you your test results if you ask for them. It’s your health, so ask!