Keep Our Families Safe

Your Checklist for Safer Medical Care

In hospitals alone, preventable medical errors are responsible for almost 100,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries every year according to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine. These errors cost society as much as $29 billion annually. The health care and medical industries have done little to eliminate the errors that are known to threaten patient safety.       
That means that it is incumbent upon each of us to take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and help ensure that we get the best possible healthcare.
As most medical errors result from getting the wrong medication, dose or procedure, here are a series of steps you can take to help ensure that you are not injured by a preventable error.
Medications and Dosages
  • Be sure you can read the prescription before you leave your doctor’s office. Ask whether other brands or a generic version can be substituted for what you are being given. Brand name medications may be ordered by your doctor, but labeled by the generic name when filled. Knowing these alternative names helps prevent prescription errors.
  • Be aware of sound-alike names. Medications for vastly different conditions often sound similar. Ask your doctor to write the name of your condition on the prescription to decrease the chance of a mix-up.
  • Minimize the chance of dangerous drug interactions. Be sure to tell your doctor about any medications you are currently taking, including over-the-counter and herbal remedies. Also, using the same pharmacy to fill all of your prescriptions increases the chance of avoiding drug interaction problems.
  • Keep a written record for yourself. Copy down the drug and dosage before handing the prescription to the pharmacist or before having it called in by phone.
  • Read the label. Double-check that the prescription was filled correctly. Also be sure to review the drug information handout to learn how to take the medication, possible side effects and proper storage before you leave the pharmacy, and ask any questions you may have.
  • Ask about side effects. Some side effects may lead to potential harm or cause you to discontinue the medication prematurely.
  • In a hospital or clinic, state your name and medication before taking it or allowing someone to attach an intravenous (IV) medication. With IV medication, verify the name of the drug and the dosage before the bag is hooked up. If possible, ask your doctor to write down all medications and dosages in advance.
  • Make a mental note of what your medication looks like. Try to remember what each medication looks and smells like. Ask questions if you are given anything that seems unusual.
  • Note the time when medications are administered. Be sure to question any changes to your routine.
  • Get a second opinion. That way you can objectively evaluate the advice that an operation is needed.
  • Only go to a specialist at a hospital with lots of experience in the procedure you are having. Don’t be afraid to ask the doctor if he/she performs the procedure in an average month or if he/she has special training or certification in the procedure.
  • On the day of your procedure, get a verbal confirmation of what the procedure involves and confirm the site. It is also recommended that you mark the limb or body part, in appropriate instances, that is to be operated on.
(Source: The National Women’s Health Resource Center)