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Errors in Healthcare: Facts You Should Know

February 24th, 2016

Did you know that approximately 33 percent of hospital admissions encounter healthcare errors during their stay. An estimated 130,000 hospitalized Medicare patients experienced adverse events every month! A private patient advocate has knowledge of the system and can help you to take charge of your healthcare regardless of where you are being treated. Knowledge is power and knowledge can help you to limit the chances that you will become one of the 33 percent.

The actual number of medical errors continues to be difficult to track due to underreporting, a lack of a universal reporting system, fear of professional or legal retribution, and a lack of consensus regarding terminology. Reporting of significant adverse events continues to be primarily of a voluntary nature and experts suggest new methods to measure errors and adverse events are needed.
While the majority of data reported relates to hospitals, errors are not limited to inpatient care settings. With an increasing number of patients in outpatient settings, including primary care, ambulatory surgical centers and extended care facilities, the need for more focused research is indicated. Research shows diagnostic errors to be especially problematic in outpatient settings.
You can take the following steps to assure that your primary care provider will have all of the information he/she needs to provide you with excellent, error-free care:
• Make sure that all healthcare providers know every medicine you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements, such as vitamins and herbs.
• Bring all medicines and supplements to doctor visits. “Brown bag” your medicines. 
• Make sure the doctor knows about any allergies and adverse reactions you have had to medicines.
• When your doctor writes a prescription for you, make sure you can read it.
• Ask for information about your medicines in terms you can understand:
    -What is the medicine for?
    -How am I supposed to take it and for how long?
    -What side effects are likely? And what do I do if they occur?
    -Is this medicine safe to take with other medicines or dietary supplements I am taking?
    -What food, drink or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine?
• Verify your prescription when you pick up your medicine from the pharmacy.
• Ask if you have any questions about the directions on your medicine labels.
• Ask for written information about the side effects your medicine could cause.
• Ask all healthcare workers who will touch you whether they have washed their hands. 
• When discharged from the hospital, ask your doctor to explain the treatment plan you will follow at home.
• If you are having surgery, make sure that you, your doctor and your surgeon all agree on exactly what will be done. Surgeons are expected to sign their initials directly on the site to be operated on before the surgery.
• Speak up if you have questions or concerns. You have a right to question anyone involved with your care.
• Make sure that all doctors have your important health information. Do not assume that everyone has all the information they need.
• Ask a private patient advocate to go to appointments with you. Even if you do not need help now, you might need it later.
• Follow up on test results. Do not assume “no news is good news.”
• Learn about your condition and treatments by asking your doctor and nurse and by using other reliable sources such as private patient advocates. Ask your doctor if your treatment is based on the latest evidence.

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