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The NSPA Blog

5 ways you can prevent medical error from happening to you

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Posted on December 11th, 2018 by Teri Dreher, under Medical Error

We’ve said it before and (unfortunately) we’ll probably say it again

Medical error is still the 3rd leading cause of death in America. That’s more than 250,000 people! Advances in measurement are only showing more preventable deaths caused by errors. Hospital regulations aim to use electronic health records to tackle the issue. Still, with numbers remaining steady and as part of the patient advocacy attitude, we believe it’s important to do what we can on the consumer end of healthcare. Here is our list of the top five ways you can prevent medical error from happening to you and your loved ones.Medicare Outpatient Observation Notice

  1. Prepare a medical summary of your health conditions, allergies, physicians, and all medications
    • Ideally, this is a concise and organized document that you can pull out in appointments or emergencies to get medical personnel acquainted with who you are.
  2. Consult a trusted health care professional for recommendations when looking for a new doctor
    • If you google “doctors near me” right now, you’ll be bombarded with an overload of results.

      • Many of the results will have ratings, too. But the best way to ensure you’re getting quality care is to ask a professional. If your primary care doctor thinks you may need a knee replacement, ask who they would go it if it were their knee that needed operating on. This is great way to prevent medical error.
  3. Trust your gut and speak up if you think something is wrong
    • Having a little bit of anxiety during any medical encounter is normal. We all know the feeling, though, when something truly feels off. If you think something is wrong, speak up. If you’re in the hands of a medical team that cares about you, they’ll listen and address your concerns.
  4. Exercise vigilance during admission and discharge – the potential for error is most likely to occur during this transition process
    • This is one reason we think having a patient advocate is so necessary. During admission, stress can be high. Tyranny of the urgent can take over and small, but important, details can get overlooked. Similarly, we can be so relieved (or medicated) during discharge that we miss key information. Being alone in either process is a recipe for medical error to occur.
  5. Obtain written copies of your discharge instructions and make sure you fully understand them before leaving the hospital
    • Connected to our last point, understanding your discharge instructions is huge. Hospital staff are doing what they can to ensure this happens – they don’t want to be dinged with high 30 day readmission rates – but it’s on us to do everything we can to make sure we understand.

Have any tips of your own for preventing medical error? Let us know in the comment section below!

With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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