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Steps patients can take to help prevent medical mistakes

It is only natural that when one visits a hospital in Pennsylvania for medical treatment, that one will leave in better health than when one arrived. Unfortunately, avoidable medical mistakes occur at an alarming frequency. There are ways, however, patients can attempt to protect themselves from falling victim to a medical mistake due to the negligence of a physician or hospital.

First of all, it never hurts to ask questions. This is especially true if one does not understand the treatment one will be receiving or the patient has doubts about it. It may help to bring in a third party to assist one in both asking the appropriate questions and understanding the response the physician gives. When it comes to surgical procedures, asking questions regarding the details of the procedure, the length of the procedure and the recovery process can be an important part of making sure all parties to the surgical procedure are on the same page.

It is also important for doctors, surgeons and pharmacists to have a list of the medications the patient currently takes. In addition, if a patient is allergic to any drugs, their health care providers should be informed of this. It helps to read the instructions that come along with the medication, so one can understand how to take it. Reading the warning labels on the medication is also important, so one can be aware of any restrictions or adverse side effects one may experience.

If a person has any medical procedures or tests performed while at the hospital, it is important for the patient to receive the results of such tests. Patients may have to phone the hospital or doctor in order to obtain a copy of their test results. Once one has the results of one's medical tests, one can ask his or her health care provider about what the results mean for one's health and how the results will affect future medical treatments.

However, despite all of a patient's efforts to protect his or her health, doctor errors, mistakes and incidents of medical malpractice may still occur due to physician negligence. Unfortunately, such negligence could have a detrimental effect on one's health and well-being, leaving the patient worse off than before they were treated. When this happens, it may be possible for the victim to take legal action in order to recover financially for the harms he or she suffered.

Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, "Five steps to safer health care," accessed June 3, 2015

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