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How to prevent medical mistakes at the doctor

When you need urgent medical care, or even a routine checkup, medical errors are the last thing on your mind. You are probably hoping you don’t have a long wait and that the doctor will be able to provide relief.

But medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in America, after heart disease and cancer. You do not need to have an expert understanding of medicine to protect yourself against malpractice. But you do need to take a proactive role in your healthcare. Here are some pointers to help keep you safe.

Speak up

Your medical team only knows what you tell them, so speak up and do not feel afraid to get descriptive about your symptoms and medical concerns. In order for your doctors to arrive at the right conclusion and treatment recommendations, they need you to be honest about your medical and medication histories and current issues. 

Get involved 

Regardless of how fast you want your medical visit to be over with, you cannot dismiss the possibility of your healthcare team making medical mistakes. Ask questions about the information you receive. Let your doctor know when you do not understand something. Ask about alternative treatment options, outcome expectations and risk factors. Write things down so you have an accurate record of the care you receive. 

Verify prescriptions 

If medication is necessary, be sure to verify the name, pronunciation and spelling of their recommendations, along with the reason you need it and dosage information, with your doctor and the pharmacist. Ask questions and read the information that comes with your prescriptions. Keep a diary of your symptoms while you are on those medications. 

Medication errors are among the most common medical mistakes. Sometimes a wrong prescription or pharmacy error is harmless or the side effects are short-lived. In other cases, the wrong drug or an overdose can trigger life-threatening symptoms or permanent damage.

Don’t become part of the medical malpractice statistics

While most physicians excel at their jobs, there are some who use their skills recklessly and endanger the lives of their patients. If you are not vigilant as a patient, you risk becoming one of growing numbers of patients harmed by medical malpractice.

A good doctor should not be offended when you ask him or her for clarification or inquire about the alternatives. The question you don’t ask could be the one that comes back to haunt you.



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