How To Prevent Errors In Medical Treatment
We know that doctors, capable and skilled as they are, are prone to human error and need help arriving at the best and safest medical judgment. So where does that leave us patients? Smack in the middle, that’s where.
The rational, communicative patient is as much a member of the medical team as the doctor himself. Taking charge of your own health prepares you for the challenges ahead, determines treatment effectiveness and perhaps most crucial of all, minimizes your risk of becoming another medical-error statistic. These are just some of the steps you can make on your own:
Be Part Of The Medical Team
This means disclosing all necessary medical information to your doctor. Details should include medication history – both supplements and prescription drugs – allergies and drug reactions.
Do no withhold any critical information. There is a tendency for us to ‘edit’ the information, either under the misguided assumption that the doctor already knows or that the information is not crucial to treatment.
Do Your Homework
Enquiring onto aspects like diagnosis, tests required and treatments can prepare you for the days ahead and help you make an informed decision, with the assistance of your doctor, on your best options.
Remember to ask if the treatments suggested are based on the latest available evidence or guidelines.
More tests are not necessarily better, and extra costs may be incurred if such tests have little chance of providing more information on your condition.
There are also many sources available to check on medical conditions. But be cautious. Make sure your source in reliable ie, a reputed medical website or family medicine encyclopedia. Avoid anecdotal information, as the evidence is usually difficult to verify.
Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do not worry about saying you do not understand certain medical terms. It is your right as a patient to be kept informed at all times.
If you have multiple medical conditions, it is vitally important to have trusted personal physician keeping tabs on you at all times. Such a doctor will collect all the medical information, making sure treatments prescribed work together and do not clash. Specialists may not communicate among themselves, so it is best to have a family physician who can keep tabs on all your treatments.
If you fear there is a chance that your medical condition might prevent you from speaking for yourself sometime in the future, ensure that a trusted family member or friend is with you from the first day of consultation. You should be confident enough to trust them to make the best medical decisions for you at all times.
What About The Medication?
Again, ask! We tend to take for granted the rapid fire instructions that we barely registered at the end of a doctor’s consultation. Be sure you know:
- what the medications are for.
- how to take them and for how long.
- what the potential side effects are and how to manage them.
- if they are safe to be taken with your current medication and supplements.
- if there are any special precautions to be taken, like avoiding alcohol or a particular food while on the medication.
Did not hear the instructions the first time? Ask your doctor to repeat them again, and slowly. The best thing would be to have the instructions written down clearly, and in a language and format you understand.
The best source of help in this matter is the pharmacist. Review each instruction with him or her to ensure you understand each point clearly. Many errors occur because the patient fails to understand the labels and, as a result, does not take the medication correctly.
The tablespoon in your kitchen is not a true measure for liquid medicine. Get a measuring spoon, cup or syringe from the pharmacy to make accurate measurements.
Other errors that can occur are the dispensing of the wrong drug. Check with the pharmacist or dispenser if the drugs are what were prescribed by the doctor. One trick: Try to see if you can make out the doctor’s handwriting on the prescription. If you cannot, chances are the dispenser is going to face the same problem.
Hospital Admission Looms
- Choose a hospital with a proven reputation for managing your particular condition.
- Investigate the hygiene practices of the staff and the disinfection of its facilities.
- If you are going in for surgery, be absolutely clear with your surgeon on what procedure will be done, where, with what outcome, as well as any potential risks. Studies indicate that 100% of wrong-site surgeries are preventable.
- Research indicates that doctors assume patients know more than they actually do at the point of discharge. So make sure you discuss anything and everything pertinent to achieving fill recovery – for example, dietary restrictions, medications, therapy and follow up appointments.
Asking all questions might take some getting used to, but the satisfaction of knowing you made the best informed choice is a rewarding experience. You will also be able to ease headaches and worries all around over unintentional mistakes.