8 Ways to Protect Against Medical Errors in Hospitals

The shocking news that preventable deaths in hospitals could run as high as 210,000 to 440,000 annually begs the question: what can I do to protect myself or a loved one in the event of a hospitalization? If you look at the source of these deaths – infection, medication errors, delayed diagnoses or action – there are some definite steps you can take. The key here is to recruit a trusted friend or family member to be your advocate. If you are sick enough to be in the hospital, it is unlikely you are capable of being your own advocate. Here are some suggestions from our dependable Boston medical malpractice lawyers:

1) Make hand sanitizer your new best friend.Actively fight the chance of a hospital-acquired infection by requiring everyone who enters the room to wipe their hands with a sanitizer. Bring your own bottle. This includes doctors and nurses. Regularly wipe down surfaces that get touched often, like door knobs and table tops. The Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths lists more precautionary steps.

2) Be vigilant in overseeing prescribed medications:

  • Bring all prescription bottles with you to make sure hospital staff record information accurately.
  • Keep your own written list of what is prescribed, how often and in what quantity. Have your advocate go over the list with whoever shows up with the next dose to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Double check medications before they are given.

3) Insist on timely removal of catheters. Catheters are often a source of hospital infection and should be removed as quickly as the doctor orders. Make sure this is done.

4) Be the squeaky wheel. If symptoms seem to be getting worse and you can’t get a nurse or doctor to pay attention, call the supervising nurse, another attending physician or the hospital’s patient advocate. A delayed diagnosis can be real trouble.

5) Stay vigilant after surgery. Bleeding or increased trouble breathing should immediately be brought to the attention of nursing staff and action taken to resolve it.

6) Put the patient’s health above other’s feelings. Tell prospective visitors if the patient isn’t feeling well, visits should be deferred.

7) Choose an experienced surgeon. Statistics show the more often a doctor has performed a procedure, the better the outcome. Also, confirm your doctor is board certified in his or her specialty.

8) Be pleasant but persistent. Often, a kind word and a smile can get the attention of an overworked nurse better than a complaint. Let the staff know you appreciate everything they do, then keep asking any question that nags at you until you get a full answer.

Doctors and hospitals are working harder than ever at eliminating preventable errors, especially now that the government is refusing to pay the costs of additional treatment or longer stays for injured patients. But we as patients can do our part. The eight tips above are a good start.

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