Like many others from around the nation, patients in Chicago have often experienced the devastation that occurs when family members and other loved ones are affected by medical mistakes. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a medical error occurs any time a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional makes a preventable mistake that has the potential to cause harm to a patient. Examples of medical error include misdiagnosis, incomplete diagnosis or treatment, injury, hospital-acquired infection, surgical error, and lab errors. These mistakes can occur anywhere throughout the medical system.
According to A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital care, a recent study found in the Journal of Patient Safety, medical errors account for roughly 400,000 deaths each year in the nation’s hospitals. This figure does not take into account the medical mistakes made elsewhere, nor the errors that were not fatal. These staggering numbers have been a reality for decades, so patients should take an active role in their health care to prevent themselves from becoming the victim of malpractice.
Prescription mistakes can easily occur due to the negligence of a prescribing doctor or a pharmacist. As with most cases, communication is key in preventing prescription errors. Patients should always make sure that all of their physicians are aware of the dosing schedule they are on for each medication they are using. This includes information for over-the counter medicine as well as vitamins, herbs and other supplements. Allergies and adverse reactions should also immediately be disclosed to both doctors and pharmacists.
When a doctor prescribes a medicine, patients should ensure that they can read what it is and that they understand what it is being prescribed for. Patients can discuss dosing and side effects, potential interactions with other medicines and supplements, as well as any food, drink or activities to be avoided while on the medication, with both the prescribing doctor and pharmacist upon pickup.
At the Hospital and in surgery
When patients stay in a hospital, they are likely to catch an infection that they didn’t have when they were admitted. Patients can ensure they don’t catch another illness by being vigilant about hand washing, and asking all healthcare workers to wash their hands before touching them. Patients should also leave the hospital with a clear understanding of their discharge instructions and future treatment plan.
Prior to surgery, surgeons should sign the site to be operated on to ensure that they make no mistakes. Patients should also make sure they understand the procedure they will undergo as well as its risks, potential complications, and their expected recovery.
In any kind of medical setting, proper communication is the key to preventing mistakes. Patients should be comfortable asking questions and seeking answers from anyone involved in their healthcare, and if they are not, new providers should be found.