With all the medical malpractice claims we hear about in the news, it’s easy to be fearful that you or I will become the next victim at the hands of a negligent doctor. Obviously it is impossible to avoid every medical error, otherwise there would be no malpractice, however there are ways that we, as patients, can take matters into our own hands and avoid becoming a victim.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has actually created a helpful patient fact sheet containing a list of ways that we, as patients, can become advocates for our own healthcare and hopefully avoid malpractice. Five of their suggestions include the following.
If you have concerns or doubts, don’t be afraid to ask questions. And perhaps more importantly, make sure you understand the answers. For this reason, you should choose a doctor that you feel comfortable talking to.
Always maintain a list of all medications you take (including non-prescription meds). And bring this list with you whenever you visit a physician or pharmacist. Always discuss any drug allergies you suffer from, and ask questions so you understand what you are prescribed. Medication errors are at the top of the list of medical malpractice claims, so if you are careful and educated, you can help prevent it from happening to you.
Ask for the results of any procedure or test you undergo, including when and how you can expect them. Then follow up if you don’t hear from your doctor in an appropriate amount of time. Often people work under the assumption that “no news is good news”. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and you should never assume that just because you haven’t heard anything the results are fine.
Ask your doctor which hospital is best for your healthcare needs. If you have a choice of hospitals, be sure to discuss with your doctor which one will best suit the needs of your specific situation.
Should your condition require surgery, make sure you understand exactly what will happen before, during and after the procedure. Know all the possible risks and side effects before you go under the knife, and what, if any, the alternatives are. Once you decide to move forward with surgery, you should sit down with your surgeon and ask plenty of questions. A few suggestions include:
- Exactly what does the surgery entail?
- How long is it expected to last?
- What should I expect after the surgery?
- How long will my recovery last and how will I feel?
Don’t forget to notify your surgeon, nurses and anesthesiologist about any allergies, or bad reactions to any medications you are taking or have taken in the past. Something that seems insignificant and unrelated to you may, in fact, be important so be as detailed as possible.
Taking the time to discuss your concerns and ask as many questions as you can might seem a bit cumbersome at first, but it may in fact mean the difference between a successful medical procedure and a case of medical malpractice.