Medical Errors: Prescriptions and Procedures

Part 2 of 2

PrescriptionKeep Track
Write down the names of all the medications you are taking. If you get your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy, ask the pharmacist to print you out a list of all your medications. Take this list with you each time you visit a doctor to remind you to discuss your medication history. Also, keep a record of any and all medical conditions you have, allergies, hospitalizations, and any adverse reactions or sensitivities you've experienced.

Make a Choice
If you have more than one option on where your procedure takes place, choose the facility that has the most experience and the highest success rate in treating your condition. Visit the facility to get a first-hand look at where your procedure will take place. Find out what kind of care the facility offers after the procedure as well.

If you have the option of choosing your surgeon, learn about his or her credentials, experience and background. Set up a meeting with your surgeon and ask questions about his or her experience in treating your condition. Get a second opinion to help make a more informed decision.

Ask what other health professionals will be involved with your care. Does your surgeon have a nurse or physician assistant. Will these professionals also be available to you if questions arise? Will you be able to speak with your surgeon if you prefer? Plan to meet with the people who will be helping to manage your postoperative care. These professionals often become your key advocate following surgery and a good preoperative rapport is important.

Know the Procedure
If you need surgery, make sure you understand exactly what will be done. Talk to the surgeon about what the surgery entails, how long it will take, and how you can expect to feel after the procedure. Ask your surgeon about other resources you can use at home to learn more about your surgery such as books, brochures, web sites or videos. While undergoing the wrong surgery is rare, it has happened. By learning all you can about what procedure you are receiving, you are less likely to suffer from this type of error.

Take a Friend
Have someone go with you to your doctor's office or to the hospital. That way, if you are too ill or nervous to ask questions, they can speak for you. They may also be able to help you remember all of the information your doctor gives you. Even if you think you don't need help, bring someone anyway. Their presence and support may be more helpful than you realize.

Get the Results
Some doctor's offices follow the "no news is good news" theory of medical tests. However, when they don't call, it is impossible for you to determine good news from ignored test results. To avoid this error, request that your doctor's office call you with the results no matter what they are. If they fail to call in a timely manner, call them to find out the results.

Have a Medical "Home"
If you have more than one medical condition and are seeing a number of different doctors, try to choose one primary care physician who can oversee all of your care and who knows your health history. This will help keep the lines of communication open between your doctors and ensure they each have complete information about your conditions and treatments.

The health care system in our country is working hard to improve safety for patients. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and hospital personnel are all dedicated health professionals who have their patients' best interests in mind. But patients need to participate too. Become a conscientious consumer, do your homework, learn all you can, and help prevent medical errors from happening.

Updated on: 03/22/16
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