As cited in a previous blog article , medical error is now the third-leading cause of death. Medical error may involve medication mix-ups, mistakes made during surgical procedures, misdiagnoses, or improper use or care of equipment and lab reports. Although some instances may not be avoidable, an individual can take proactive measures to prevent themselves from becoming a victim of medical error.

Although many medical errors may occur as a result of the complexities of the health care system, some may be caused by miscommunication between medical staff and their patients. For this reason, it is important for patients to keep doctors informed about the medications they are taking, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as dietary supplements such as herbs and vitamins. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests patients keep their records up to date by bringing all of their medicines and supplements to their doctor’s visit at least once a year. Patients should alert their health care professional of any allergic and adverse reactions they’ve had to these medications that may cause them harm.

A patient should be proactive when it comes to staying informed about their prescription medication by asking questions about its intended use, dosage, and side effects. Patients should ask if the medication is safe to use in conjunction with other drugs or dietary supplements and what food, drinks, or activities should be avoided while using the medicine. In 1979, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed that one-third of medical professionals’ handwriting was illegible. It may be presumed that handwriting may still be a factor in medical errors today. For this reason, patients should make sure they can read their prescriptions; if a patient has difficulty reading it, the person filling the prescription may also encounter a similar issue.

For surgeries, there should be a mutual agreement among the referring doctor, the surgeon and the patient about what will be done. If a patient has a choice in hospital location, he or she should pick one that has a history of treating many patients for that particular condition. When being discharged, a patient should ask the doctor to explain the treatment or recovery plan to be followed at home.

If you know you are entering the hospital to be treated for a severe condition, try to bring a friend or relative who can participate in the discussion about your care, and maybe even take notes.

The complexities surrounding medical malpractice and errors can be difficult to navigate, especially when victims and their families are dealing with its physical and emotional after effects. The medical malpractice attorneys at Barovick Law, P.C. are experienced in handling complex negligence cases resulting from medical errors, including misdiagnoses, mistakes made during the birth process, surgeries, and aftercare. Contact the firm.

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