10 Ways to Prevent Medical Errors – Be your own Advocate

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A couple of months ago, I came across a thought-provoking news article, written by Karen Garloch of The Charlotte Observer in North Carolina, on how to protect oneself from medical errors: http://m.fayobserver.com/articles?path=/articles/2011/11/07/1130862.
While it was wonderful for me to read the article and educate myself on this topic, I felt very sad as to why it had been written.

Garloch shared the story about Joe and Theresa Graedon, a pharmacologist and medical anthropologist who know a great deal about healthcare and advocacy. Together the couple have written 14 books, and host a radio show and advice column called ‘The People’s Pharmacy’.

So it stood to figure that all would be well when Joe’s 92 year-old mother, Helen, had to go into hospital for surgery. Sadly, a series of medical errors while in hospital led to her death in 1996.

But instead of suing the hospital, Joe and Theresa began a campaign to change the system and improve patient safety. The following list of 10 things you can do to prevent medical erros made a lot of sense to me. Thank you Helen Graedon.

10 WAYS TO PREVENT MEDICAL ERRORS
Karen Garloch, Health Writer
The Charlotte Observer, N.C.
10-17-11 (reprinted in Life Extension Foundation magazine, 10-27-11)

1. Expect mistakes and have an advocate with you in the hospital.
2. Check every medicine. Make sure the dose is right.
3. Be assertive. “Being nice can get you killed.”
4. When in doubt, “say No.” Demand an explanation.
5. Be vigilant during transitions, from one floor to another, or when shifts change.
6. Alert the nurse or “rapid response team,” if something seems wrong.
7. When discharged from the hospital, get detailed instructions and contact information. Know what symptoms might signal a worsening situation or infection.
8. Hospital doctors may never speak to your primary care physician. Take your records and don’t assume doctors already know what’s in them.
9. Double-check everything. Don’t assume no news is good news or that test results are always correct. Get copies of lab results in a timely fashion. If something seems wrong, request a repeat.
10. Take a friend or family member to doctor’s visits. Nearly every error made in the hospital can also be made in the outpatient setting. A second pair of eyes and ears can be very useful in getting instructions and spotting problems.

PATIENT CHECKLIST
Take a list of your top health concerns/symptoms.
Ask your doctor for a recap to make sure you’ve been heard.
Take notes or record the conversation so you can remember.
Carry a list of all your medicines and supplements.
Find out about the most common and serious side effects your medicines may cause.
Ask the doctor how confident he is about your diagnosis. Find out what else could be causing your symptoms.
Get a second opinion.
Ask health care providers to wash their hands before they examine you.
Keep track of your progress: Keep a diary of relevant measurements such as weight, blood pressure, blood sugar.
Be vigilant when moving from one health care setting to another. Mistakes and oversights are especially common during transitions.
Ask how to get in touch with health care providers. Get phone numbers or email addresses, and learn when to report problems.

(c)2011 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.) Distributed by Mclatchy-Tribune News Service.