1. Health
20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors: Patient Fact Sheet
Part 2: Errors during hospital stays and surgery.
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Medications
 
 Related Resources
• Get the Most From Your Doctor's Appointment
• 10 Tips for Recovering From Surgery
 
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Ways You Can Help Your Family Prevent Medical Errors!
 

Hospital Stays

10.   If you have a choice, choose a hospital at which many patients have the procedure or surgery you need.

Research shows that patients tend to have better results when they are treated in hospitals that have a great deal of experience with their condition.

11.   If you are in a hospital, consider asking all health care workers who have direct contact with you whether they have washed their hands.

Handwashing is an important way to prevent the spread of infections in hospitals. Yet, it is not done regularly or thoroughly enough. A recent study found that when patients checked whether health care workers washed their hands, the workers washed their hands more often and used more soap.

12.   When you are being discharged from the hospital, ask your doctor to explain the treatment plan you will use at home.

This includes learning about your medicines and finding out when you can get back to your regular activities. Research shows that at discharge time, doctors think their patients understand more than they really do about what they should or should not do when they return home.

Surgery

13.   If you are having surgery, make sure that you, your doctor, and your surgeon all agree and are clear on exactly what will be done.

Doing surgery at the wrong site (for example, operating on the left knee instead of the right) is rare. But even once is too often. The good news is that wrong-site surgery is 100 percent preventable. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons urges its members to sign their initials directly on the site to be operated on before the surgery.

Other Steps You Can Take

14.   Speak up if you have questions or concerns.

You have a right to question anyone who is involved with your care.

15.   Make sure that someone, such as your personal doctor, is in charge of your care.

This is especially important if you have many health problems or are in a hospital.

16.   Make sure that all health professionals involved in your care have important health information about you.

Do not assume that everyone knows everything they need to.

17.   Ask a family member or friend to be there with you and to be your advocate (someone who can help get things done and speak up for you if you can't).

Even if you think you don't need help now, you might need it later.

18.   Know that "more" is not always better.

It is a good idea to find out why a test or treatment is needed and how it can help you. You could be better off without it.

19.   If you have a test, don't assume that no news is good news.

Ask about the results.

20.   Learn about your condition and treatments by asking your doctor and nurse and by using other reliable sources.

For example, treatment recommendations based on the latest scientific evidence are available from the National Guidelines Clearinghouse at http://www.guideline.gov. Ask your doctor if your treatment is based on the latest evidence.

Previous page < Avoiding Medication Errors < Page 1, 2

More Information
Select for more online information about medical errors. A Federal report on medical errors can be accessed online, and a print copy (Publication No. OM 00-0004) is available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse (1-800-358-9295).

Internet Citation:
AHRQ Publication No. 00-PO38
Current as of February 2000

20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors. Patient Fact Sheet. AHRQ Publication No. 00-PO38, February 2000. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/20tips.htm

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