Patients often want to know what they can do for themselves to prevent medical errors. Often they feel helpless, ignorant and confused when they are seeking health care.
Thanks in part to the Internet, there are now sources that remedy this situation by providing information and helpful suggestions. Many of these various suggestions boil down to certain basic principles.
One crucial thing is to make sure each of your healthcare providers knows what you’ve told the other ones and what they are doing to you. Your primary care physician should know what you’ve told your specialists and what those specialists are prescribing for you. Each specialist should know what every other specialist is prescribing for you, and the reasons for this, and what your state of health is in general. This way, the doctor prescribing something for your leg won’t accidentally give you something that could harm your heart or that you might be allergic to.
Another important general principle to keep in mind is not to be afraid to ask questions. Ask about what exactly your medications will do, if there are any alternative treatments, if there are any side effects, or about anything else that strikes you as important to know. Ask if anything confuses you about how long you should be taking a certain medication, or how often, or what activities might or might not be acceptable while you are taking it.
Do not worry about annoying your doctor or sounding stupid. Your doctor is there to look after your health and to help you understand what you should be doing, not simply to give you orders. Asking questions becomes doubly important when you are staying in a hospital. Do not hesitate to question nurses and other caregivers about what exactly is happening with regards to your care.
Another good thing to do is take advantage of all the information that is available to you in books, in magazines and on the Internet. Through these sources you can find expert answers to many questions–though these do not substitute for the attention of a medical professional.
Other places to find information on this: The Family Doctor, Medical Errors: Tips to Help Prevent Them.