4 ways patients can protect themselves from medical errors

Patients can help prevent medical errors by asking questions, proactively addressing common mistakes, keeping interactions positive and seeing specialists.

In 2016, a John Hopkins University study concluded that medical errors have become one of the top causes of death in the U.S. As U.S. News reports, with over 250,000 annual fatalities attributed to these mistakes, only cancer and heart disease claim more lives. Sadly, many of these errors may be avoidable. This makes it critical for people in Pennsylvania to understand how to reduce their risk of unnecessary harm from medical mistakes.

1. See specialists

When feasible, patients should seek treatment from a practitioner or hospital that specializes in the condition the patient suffers from or the treatment that he or she needs. According to Newsmax, studies indicate that outcomes are better for patients who visit hospitals that have experience treating their condition. By conducting research into the specializations and day-to-day practice of a facility or physician, patients can hone in on the most qualified choice.

2. Ask questions

Patients should not be afraid to ask questions to better understand their treatment or call attention to potential oversights on the part of a medical professional. For example, it is critical that patients ask for detailed information regarding the purpose, dosage, risks and contraindications of every medication that they are prescribed. Many patients may benefit from bringing an advocate along to medical appointments help gather information and speak up on the patient's behalf.

3. Be proactive

During hospital stays, patients should take proactive measures to address a few common causes of medical errors in hospitals. These actions include:

· Reviewing all medication use, along with allergies and prior reactions to similar medications, with a physician anytime that a prescription is written.

· Stopping pathogens and hospital-acquired infections from spreading by asking visitors and physicians alike to wash their hands upon entering the room.

· Meeting with both the surgeon and physician before surgery to ensure there are no misunderstandings about the procedure. Asking the surgeon to initial the surgical site can also reduce the risk of wrong-site or wrong-patient errors.

Patients who believe that a serious misunderstanding or mistake has occurred should also make sure to voice their concerns immediately.

4. Remain respectful

As The Sacramento Bee reports, a recent study from Florida University found that doctors who receive rude treatment from their patients are likelier to make errors in diagnosis, treatment planning and communication. The researchers estimate that disrespectful treatment by patients distracts doctors and can impair their job performance for as long as a day. The researchers also believe that this factor plays a role in 40 percent of medical errors.

As a result, patients should strive to avoid aggressive or disrespectful behavior when interacting with their doctors. For example, if patients believe a physician has overlooked information and made an error in diagnosis, patients should not question the doctor's listening skills or credentials. Instead, patients should gently raise the issue and consider seeking a second opinion later as needed.

Handling medical negligence

Unfortunately, these measures might not be enough to prevent every medical error. In some cases, even when patients are engaged and proactive, physicians who are inattentive or otherwise negligent may still make mistakes that should not excusably occur. People who suffer harm as a result of such errors should consider consulting with an attorney about their options for seeking recourse.