Proactive protection from medical mistakes: What patients can do

Hospitals are scary places, and doctor’s offices and clinics often aren’t much better. Medical professionals are increasingly shouldering heavy patient workloads and the distractions presented in modern medical facilities are almost endless. That can easily lead to tragic – and even deadly — mistakes.

What’s a patient to do? You can’t exactly avoid the whole situation if you need medical care, but you can take some proactive steps to minimize the potential that you’ll end up a victim of medical malpractice. Here are some things you can do:

  • Know your conditions, your medications and your drug allergies. Some patients just grab a bag and take all their pills with them when they have to go to a doctor’s office or hospital, but you can also write everything down and make sure that you provide a copy to your doctor.
  • Take someone with you when you go. A friend or relative can do two things: listen to critical information in case you aren’t well enough to follow everything that’s being said and advocate for you if it looks like a provider isn’t paying attention to your needs.
  • Repeat yourself. If you’ve been admitted to the hospital or you’ve been sitting in the emergency room long enough to go through a shift change, never assume that all your information made it through the handoff. Go through your conditions, medications and allergies with the new doctor or medical professional caring for you.
  • Ask questions rather than just trusting the doctor. Did the doctor order tests? Are you about to be given some medication in an IV? Find out why the tests are being ordered. Ask what medication is about to go in that tube. “Doctor knows best” is an outdated notion that could hurt you.

Despite your best efforts, you can still end up a victim of medical mistakes or negligence. If you suspect (or know) that better care could have prevented the problems you’re dealing with, speak to an attorney right away.