Ways to Prevent Medical Errors

Be an active member of your health-care team. Take part in every decision about your care.

Make sure all your doctors know every prescription medicine and over-the-counter product you're taking. That includes vitamins and herbal remedies.

At least once a year, bring all your medicines and supplements to your doctor and discuss them to learn if there are any problems. This also helps your doctor keep your records up to date.

Confirm your doctor knows about any allergies and adverse reactions you have to medicines.

When your doctor writes a prescription, make sure you can read it. If you have trouble reading it, that means it may also be difficult for your pharmacist to read the prescription. Ask for easy to understand information about your medicines. What is the medicine for? How am I supposed to take it? For how long? What side effects are likely? What do I do if they occur?

Can I take this medicine with other medicines or dietary supplements that I'm taking? What food, drink or activities should I avoid while taking the medicine? When you pick up the medicine from the pharmacy, ask if it's the medicine your doctor prescribed. If you have any questions about the directions on the medicine labels, ask your pharmacist about them. Ask about the best way to measure liquid medicines. Get written information about any possible medicine side effects.

If you're having surgery and have your choice of hospital, pick the one where your surgery is most common. Research shows patients have better results when they're treated in hospitals with the most experience dealing with their condition.

When you're in hospital, consider asking all health-care workers whether they've washed their hands. When being discharged from hospital, ask your doctor to clearly explain your home treatment plan.

If you're having surgery, ensure that you, your doctor and surgeon all agree and are clear on exactly what will be done during surgery. Speak up if you have questions or concerns. Make sure that someone is in charge of your care.

Make sure that your health information is known by all health-care workers involved in your care. Ask a family member or friend to be there with you and act as your advocate.

Find out why a test or treatment is needed and how it may help you. More isn't always better. If you have a test, don't assume that no news is good news. Ask for the results. Learn about your condition and treatments by asking a doctor or nurse for reliable sources.

The The National Council on Patient Information and Education has more on medication errors.

Remember we are NOT Doctors and have NO medical training.

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