When you go to the hospital or visit a doctor, you expect them to perform any treatments you may need responsibly. However, mistakes happen often in hospitals, so it makes sense to do everything you can as a patient to protect your health and prevent injury from medical malpractice. No matter if you are getting treatment for the flu or going into the hospital for a serious procedure like heart surgery, you should always make sure you and your medical team are on exactly the same page in terms of your procedure. Let them know what your expectations are, and ask about all the risks.
7 Tips to Help Patients Stay Safe from Medical Errors
The most important thing you can do when you are a patient is to realize that you are not a doctor’s customer, you are his or her partner. Ultimately healthcare is about you keeping yourself healthy, and your doctors help you do that. The following tips can help you be an informed, proactive patient.
- Know the medicines you take. A lot of what you can do to keep yourself safe is to understand your own health. Knowing what medications you take, when you take them and what they do can help your doctor immensely. If you take several medicines, it is a good idea to keep a journal or chart that you can show your doctor or nurse. And always ask if any new medications will interfere with the ones you already take.
- Know your medical history. You are the only person who has been present for every single visit to the doctor, every single cut and scrape and bruise. You lived it. So be open with your doctors, and tell them everything you may think is relevant to your condition or procedure. For example, concussions can have long-term effects on your brain, but many people don’t include them in their medical histories after they are healed.
- Ask questions and take notes. This means every single question that you can think of, especially if you are having a surgical procedure. Make sure to ask your doctor or surgeon exactly what the procedure is for and what will happen. Get a step-by-step account of exactly what will be done while you are on the operating table. Know the risks, too. This will help you keep your surgeons on track, and will be valuable in case anything does go wrong.
- Get a second opinion. Before you undergo any medical procedure, it is a good idea to get a second opinion. If your doctor won’t answer your questions or cannot explain what is being done and why, you may want to get a new doctor altogether.
- Bring a relative or friend along. Unless you are at the doctor’s office for a routine check-up or the sniffles, you should bring someone along who can act as your advocate. Make sure they understand the procedure as well as you do, and compare notes.
- Make sure you feel safe. It’s your health and your body. You should feel safe with your doctors and the hospital staff before any serious medical procedure is performed.
- Follow up after the procedure. An operation or procedure is only the first step to a healthier you. Recovery may take some time, and you need to make sure nothing goes wrong while you are healing.
Our Illinois and Missouri medical malpractice lawyers can answer your questions about medical errors and mistakes in a free initial consultation.