Help Prevent Medical Errors

Posted September 6, 2018

Thousands of Americans die each year as a result of medical errors. Common errors include medication mix-ups, unnecessary blood transfusions, health care facility-contracted infections, patients not reporting side effects, symptoms and complications, and inadequate patient preparation before and after surgery.

Errors most often occur in hospital patients’ rooms, operating rooms, emergency units, delivery rooms, primary providers’ offices and intensive care units.

The single best way you can help prevent errors is to stay closely involved in every decision of your medical care, every step of the way. For example:

Keep your health care officially coordinated by a single practitioner, such as your primary care provider.

When picking up a prescription, always ask the pharmacist: Is this what my health care provider prescribed?

Before surgery, make sure that you, your health care provider and your surgeon all agree on exactly what will be done.

During a hospital stay, ask your medical team what medicines you will be taking, how much, how often and why; that way you can match these instructions against those of the hospital staff that administers your drugs.

Don’t assume everyone knows everything you need, and don’t hesitate to speak up. If you’re unwell when you meet with your providers, enlist someone who can advocate for you at appointments or during hospital stays.

The way to minimize medical errors is for everyone involved in health care — care providers, hospital administrations, governments, health plan providers and patients — to stay aware and commit to a safer system at all levels.

— Diane McReynolds, Founder, Personal Best Healthlines