Tips to Make Health Care Safer

Medical errors are often caused by a series of small failures that individually are not big enough to cause an accident, but combined can result in a serious error. You can ensure a safer experience by being engaged in your treatment.

Featured Video from The Institute of Medicine

Most Americans will likely experience a medical diagnostic error within their lifetime, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Don’t let it be you. Watch this video and learn why it is important to speak up about your health symptoms. Medical decisions should be shared decisions between patient and medical providers.

Featured Videos from The Leapfrog Group

Look Up Hospital Safety Grades

You can look up Hospital Safety Grades in Find a Doctor.

What can you do to have a safer experience?

Become more informed:

  • Look up the illnesses or conditions that affect you and research possible treatment options. Be an “e-patient” like kidney cancer survivor Dave deBronkart, whose motto is “Let patients help.”
  • Ask questions of your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or health care professional.

Keep track of your history and carry it with you:

  • Write down your medical history including any medical conditions you have, illnesses, immunizations, allergies, hospitalizations, all medications and dietary supplements you’re taking, the dose and reason you are taking the medication and any reactions or sensitivities you’ve experienced. Keep a medication wallet card with you at all times.
  • An up-to-date medication wallet card is useful for various reasons:
    • It gives doctors information about your health
    • It gives valuable information to paramedics in case of an emergency
    • It can even be useful to your dentist
    • Create a wallet card and fill it out today.
  • Write down the names and phone numbers of your doctors, clinics, and pharmacies for quick reference.

Work with your doctor and other health care professionals as a team:

  • Share your health history and treatment progress with everyone who’s caring for you.
  • Ask questions and discuss any concerns about your safety. Remember, speak up if you don’t understand something. You don’t need to feel rushed or embarrassed.
  • Provide your information each time that you are asked for it. Your doctor should confirm your identity before administering medication or performing a procedure, to ensure that they have the right patient. Many medical errors are caused by a patient being misidentified. Learn more about managing your medication at the hospital.
  • Pay attention to what your doctor is doing. Tell them if something doesn’t seem right.
  • Help your health care providers to prevent infections while they are treating you.

Involve a family member or friend in your care:

Follow the treatment plan agreed upon by you and your doctor:

  • Be sure you receive all instructions verbally and in writing that you can read and understand. Ask questions about any instructions that are confusing or unclear.
  • Report anything unusual to your doctor.
  • Be sure to get the results of any test or procedure
    • Don’t assume the results are fine if you do not get them when expected
    • Call your doctor and ask for your results
    • Ask what the results mean for your care
  • Confirm that you are getting the right medication when you’re at the pharmacy.
  • Safely manage your medication when you’re at home.

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