Have a symptom?
See what questions
a doctor would ask.
Articles » Medical Mistakes » Preventing Medical Mistakes

Preventing Medical Mistakes

A patient can do a lot to prevent mistakes in their medical care. You generally can spend a lot more time examining the situation than your over-worked medical advisors can. There are several basic strategies to cut down mistakes overall:

  • Get educated: Learning about your condition and its treatment is the best way to prevent an error.
  • Get involved: Be assertive about your right to be part of the decision process for your medical care.
  • Ask questions: Make sure you understand everything and ensure that you have been told all your options.
  • Tell your doctor everything: all symptoms (even if you think it's unrelated), other prescription medications, other over-the-counter medications, other alternative treatments, previous diseases, prior surgery, and so on. Don't assume it's not important just because your doctor did not ask.
  • Research past records: research the record of your doctor and hospital. Find out how much experience they have with your condition.

Preventing surgery mistakes: Although not all surgical risks can be avoided, there are certain ways to reduce the risk of an error.

  • Ask staff to wash hands
  • Ask staff to wash gloves (or preferably change gloves): medical staff may wear gloves to protect themselves, but not always remember to wash or change the gloves to protect patients.
  • Have an observer during the surgery
  • Research the surgery record of your doctor
  • Research the surgery record of the hospital
  • Ask if your doctor will perform the entire operation
  • Ask if there are options to surgery

Non-preventable medical mistakes: Not all medical errors are preventable. The entire medical industry has been trying to prevent and minimize them for years, without enough success. As a patient, you only have limited control over your health care. For some situations, such as surgery, you are literally in someone else's hands.

  • Surgical slips: even the best doctors will sometimes make simple mistakes in surgery. Surgeons are human. The only way to minimize this risk is to ensure your surgeon has a good record.
  • Lab test errors (false positives, false negatives): all laboratory tests have known situations when they can be incorrect. Some tests are more accurate than others, but all have a slight risk of returning the wrong result. It is difficult to avoid these small risks. However, if your diagnosis does seem to rest strongly on a particular test result, then perhaps it is worthwhile to repeat the same test, or to ask your doctor if there is a second confirmatory test that can be used.
  • Adverse reaction to medication without previous history: for example, the only way to know if you have a penicillin allergy is to have penicillin, so it's not possible to avoid the reaction if you don't know about it yet. However, medical mistakes do occur when a patient has a known allergy or intolerance and the doctor still prescribes the treatment, either through oversight or lack of information about the patient's history.

By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use. Information provided on this site is for informational purposes only; it is not intended as a substitute for advice from your own medical team. The information on this site is not to be used for diagnosing or treating any health concerns you may have - please contact your physician or health care professional for all your medical needs. Please see our Terms of Use.

Home | Symptoms | Diseases | Diagnosis | Videos | Tools | Forum | About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Advertise