How to Help Protect Yourself and Your Family from Preventable Medical Errors
How Often Do Doctors Make Mistakes?
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 10 North Carolina hospitals committed 25.1 medical mistakes for every 100 admissions between January 2002 and December 2007. Researchers chose the state due to its “high level of engagement in efforts to improve patient safety … [and] … reputation for being especially proactive regarding patient safety.”
March 12, 2013, Huffington Post bloggers Amy Chen and Amy Guan reported that seven California hospitals were being fined for $775,000 after “delaying emergency treatment, performing surgery on the wrong patient, and failing to monitor respiratory status after drug administration. Most alarming,” they stated, “were two consecutive offenses committed by the same hospital where operating surgeons left a foreign object in a patient, resulting in a second surgery to remove the retained object.”
Clearly, the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 study stating that 98,000 people die each year as a result of medical mistakes, or “never events,” has not made much of an impact.
How Can I Protect Myself and My Family?
To a certain extent, a hospital’s error is the result of poor patient safety procedures, or staff members’ failure to follow proper protocol. But there are some things you can do to intervene. Consider these strategies:
- Discuss your health and any medical procedure you are undergoing in detail with your doctor. Ask plenty of questions about patient safety measures and be sure to fully and accurately communicate your health history.
- Designate a close friend or family member to act as your advocate as you undergo surgery or other invasive procedure. He or she should know what medications and vitamins you take, your allergies, medical history, eating habits, level of physical activity and other information that may be useful to the medical professionals handling your case.
- Ask your physician to explain why he or she is prescribing a medication, the dosage, how often you should take it, and whether you should eat first or take it on an empty stomach.