7 Tips for Avoiding Medical Malpractice

Like most people, you probably make a couple mistakes at work every week. But chances are your slipups don’t ever put anyone’s life in danger.

For medical professionals, on the other hand, the stakes are much higher when it comes to on-the-job errors. A mix-up or forgotten detail can result in the serious injury or death of a patient.

According to one study, 210,000 to 440,000 deaths each year are caused by hospital or doctor errors that could have been prevented. But instead of letting this fact frighten you or make you avoid hospitals, it should motivate you to be as proactive and involved as possible in your own medical care.

Some of the errors that have caused the worst cases of medical malpractice in history could have been prevented if the patient had used one of these smart tips.

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1.Multiple Confirmations of Identity

One of the biggest factors that can contribute to hospital error is mistaken identity. For that reason, the American Hospital Association advises medical staff to confirm each patient’s identity in at least 2 different ways. These precautions are meant to ensure that the right patient is present for any procedure that takes place.

But don’t trust that to happen – take the initiative yourself by asking everyone you encounter to confirm your identity verbally (name and date of birth) and on your hospital bracelet with a visual or electronic scan. Furthermore, when you receive your bracelet, be sure to check that everything there is absolutely correct and speak up if it isn’t.

2.Ask for a Chart Check

It’s imperative that you have every hospital staff member you come in contact with check your chart before proceeding with any action. At each step of the way, it’s important to confirm that what’s being said and done is the very same thing that’s in your chart. Keep in mind that even the smallest discrepancy can result in the wrong test or treatment, which may put you at risk.

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3. Repeat Your Information to Everyone

Whenever you’re in the hospital for any sort of procedure, get in the habit of repeating your name, date of birth and the treatment you’re supposed to be getting to every staff member you encounter, from orderlies all the way up to surgeons. Even if you’re just being moved to a different room or having blood drawn, say your full name and birthday right away to help avoid any mistake that might lead to a dangerous error.

4.Don’t Be Polite

Many of us are in the habit of being polite at all costs, but when it comes to medical treatment, those costs are far too high to worry about being considerate. If there’s ever any reason that you feel like there’s a possible mistake, be firm about demanding that all vital details are checked and confirmed before moving on.

For example, if someone refers to you as “Sherry Jones” and your name is actually “Sharon Jones,” it could be a slip of the tongue or it could be that there is another patient named Sherry Jones and you’ve somehow been mistaken for her. Speak up about these seemingly minor errors and remember that being embarrassed is far better than being in danger of getting a treatment meant for someone else.

5. Demand Surgeon Does Marking

Surgery presents many more opportunities for dangerous errors that most other medical procedures. Unfortunately, you can’t control what goes on when you’re on the operating table, but you can make sure that the initial steps taken are correct. One way to do this is to ask that your surgeon be present when you mark the part of your body that is supposed to be operated on.

It may surprise you to learn that there are cases of patients having the wrong leg amputated or getting brain surgery on the wrong side of their heads. And the cause of these shocking errors is almost always pre-surgery prep and documentation. So, ask as many times as you’d like to see the chart and be awake for as long as possible during the prep process.

6. Depend on a Loved One

Being in a hospital patient can be stressful and overwhelming, so it’s often helpful to have a friend or family member with you to act as your personal advocate. If you’re in pain or distracted by what’s going on, you can depend on your loved one to be your eyes and ears, confirming that you’re getting the care that you need and that no mistakes are being made.

7.Keep Your Own Records

Of course you trust your doctors and other medical professionals to keep track of pertinent information about your health, but it doesn’t hurt to create your own backup file. Said simply, the more you know, understand and document about your condition and treatment, the more likely you’ll be to notice if something isn’t right.

While there’s no surefire way to prevent medical professionals who treat you from making a mistake, being informed and involved does help to mitigate common risks and reduce your chances of being a victim of medical malpractice.


About the Author:  

John Zaid is a Houston personal injury attorney and avid blogger who enjoys using his experience and expertise to help readers avoid dangerous situations. He is also the founding member of Zaid Law, a boutique firm that is known for providing personal attention and support to victims of injuries and accidents. For more, visit www.zaidLaw.com today.

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