Simple ways to prevent potentially fatal medical mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes; it's part of being human. Even doctors and healthcare professionals make blunders from time to time; some are harmless, others less so. However, when your health and, in some cases, your life is at state, there's a big difference between a small oversight and medical errors or negligence that have a lasting effect on your life. A 2008 study indicated that one out of every seven hospital patients experienced at least one incident of unintentional harm that resulted in a prolonged stay, permanent injury or even death.

Of course, it is the health care provider's responsibility to ensure that each and every patient receives the highest quality care and attention. When dangerous and life-threatening errors occur, the blame lies with the doctor or nurse, not with the patient. Regardless of who is at fault, though, no one wants to be the victim of a medical mistake. Is there anything you can do to avoid becoming a statistic?

Simple but avoidable hospital mistakes

Not all mistakes are preventable, and in an emergency, many patients often don't have the time to prepare or have a choice as to the location of their hospital or which doctor sees them. However, when possible, there are a few simple precautions you can take and things you can do that may help avert some errors.

  • Bring your prescription bottles
  • Request a blood-clot screening
  • Avoid dangerous falls by requesting support
  • Ask about electronic records
  • Demand hand-washing

Instead of just writing down the prescription medications you are taking, bring the bottles themselves to help avoid missed doses and drug interactions. Something else that may save your life? A blood-clot screening. One out of every 100 hospital patients dies of clots forming in veins, but a simple screening could lead to preventative care that would potentially save half those lives. Another often overlooked hazard is hospital falls; an aide can always help if you're feeling unsteady, so don't be afraid to ask for support.

When possible, use a hospital with electronic records; a recent study shows these can decrease prescription error by up to seven times by alerting staff to potential problems. Speaking of potential problems: hospitals are full of people suffering from infection, and germs are everywhere. Whenever someone enters your room, feel free to request that they wash their hands or use hand-sanitizer, whether that person is a visitor or even a member of hospital staff who needs a gentle reminder.

When a mistake happens anyway

While it's scary to think that something as simple as a nurse forgetting to wash his or her hands could be fatal, it's even more frightening to realize that a surgeon's oversight or inattention resulted in a mistake that cost you your health or, in a worst-case scenario, the life of a loved one.

In instances like these, when a health-care professional's carelessness or gross negligence is to blame for your pain and loss of health and well-being, you may benefit from consulting an Arizona attorney with experience in medical malpractice cases. A seasoned lawyer can help you explore your legal options for compensation for any subsequent medical costs for treatments that were necessary as a result of the error, your pain and suffering, lost wages and more.

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