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Hospitals and medical centers are busy places, with few health care providers and many patients. To help prevent critical healthcare errors, patients can take some steps and participate actively in their own health care. The following information was prepared by the Consumer Attorneys of California.
If you have questions or concerns or do not understand a procedure or treatment that you are undergoing, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask your doctor or other healthcare provider to explain things to you. If a doctor or nurse seems to have you confused with another patient, speak up.
Educate Yourself About Your Condition
Research your illness and the treatments out there. Find out if your doctor is specialized in that particular treatment, if possible. Take notes on what your doctor tells you, so that you can look for additional information on your own. Do not sign forms unless you have actually read them.
Have An Advocate
When you are under the stress of medical treatment, you may not be always capable of overseeing your own care. Have someone you can trust keep an eye on your medication and be there to ask questions when you cannot. After a hospital stay or doctor’s visit, your advocate should know what to expect during your recovery.
Discuss Your Treatment Options
You and your doctor should agree on the course of action of your treatment. You should understand the different types of tests your are taking and what your doctor expects to learn from the results. Consider a second opinion.
Be Aware of Your Medication
Medication errors are the most common medical mistake. Take the time to learn the indications and the generic and brand names of any drug you have been prescribed. Ask your healthcare provider the name of the medication before he/she administers it. It is also important to inform your provider of any drug allergies or other drugs or dietary supplements you are taking (for potential drug interactions) before taking new medication. When a doctors gives you a prescription to fill, ensure that you can read the doctor’s handwriting.
For Surgical Patients: Know the Universal Protocol
Before the surgery, make sure your surgeon adheres to the Universal Protocol, which is endorsed by 50 medical organizations. (Find out more at www.qualitycheck.org) Talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking and if you need to abstain from food or drink before an operation. Pre-arrange your transportation to and from the surgery. Ask someone to be your advocate (see above). Shower, wash your hair and remove all make-up and nail polish before leaving for the hospital.
At the hospital, be sure to read the hospital’s consent form thoroughly and ask questions before you sign. The staff should ask you who you are, the procedure you will be undergoing and the body part that is being operated upon.
Ensure that each staff member is checking that information with what is on your chart and x-rays. The doctor should mark the site of the operation on your body before you are sedated. Make sure there are no stray markings on your body. Before you enter the operating area, remove all accessories, eyeglasses or dentures to ensure foreign objects do not get in they way during the operation.
In the recovery room: Your doctor or nurse should evaluate your pain and provide appropriate medication or other pain relief methods. If given medication, ask for the name and the drugs potential side effects. If you are on an IV, ask the provider how long it should last and keep track of its progress.
Contact A Personal Injury Attorney | Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a hospital or medical error, please use the form below or call us toll-free at 1 (800) 541-7358 to contact an experienced personal injury attorney at the national law firm of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP.