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4 steps to take to protect yourself from medical errors

Patients may be able to avoid medical errors by taking active roles in their care, expressing concerns, keeping their own records and choosing specialists.

Annually, medical errors harm thousands of people in New York and other parts of the United States. In 2016, a Johns Hopkins University study even concluded that these errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. According to estimates from the study, over 250,000 yearly fatalities are attributable to medical errors.

Given the complexity of diagnosing and treating many conditions, some medical mistakes may be virtually impossible to avoid. However, many others may arise due to errors, oversights or outright negligence on the part of medical professionals. This makes it imperative for patients to know how to reduce their risk of these errors.

1. See specialists

According to Newsmax, research shows that patients can expect better outcomes when they visit hospitals and physicians that possess greater experience treating the patient's condition or performing the procedure that a patient requires. Healthcare providers that handle these conditions or procedures less frequently may be likelier to make needless errors. Consequently, patients should research the records and specializations of various providers before selecting one.

2. Be proactive

Patients should not be afraid to take an active role in their own care. Besides learning about their condition and treatment options, patients can take several steps to reduce the risk of errors, including the following:

· Confirming that a physician who is prescribing or administering drugs is aware of the patient's allergies, medication use and other factors that may cause contraindications.

· Asking surgeons what procedure they will be performing just before the operation begins. This can decrease the likelihood of wrong-site procedures, wrong-patient operations and other harmful surgical errors.

· Reducing the risk of hospital-acquired infections by asking all hospital staff to wash their hands before engaging in physical contact.

These measures can help prevent mistakes that stem from oversights, misunderstandings or poor communication on the part of medical staff.

3. Voice concerns

It is also critical for patients to speak up if they think a medical professional has overlooked information when diagnosing a condition, made mistakes with medication or otherwise erred. By asking questions and pointing out potential oversights, patients may be able to prevent unnecessary errors. Patients also should consider bringing an advocate - such as a family member or friend - along to appointments and procedures to listen carefully and call attention to possible mistakes.

4. Keep records

Maintaining a personal record of all medical treatments can keep patients informed and facilitate the transfer of care to other medical professionals. Patients may want to keep a journal detailing their symptoms, the proposed treatments, any actual interventions and the effects of those procedures. Patients may also want to keep personal copies of their medical records.

Obtain advice

Sadly, statistics show that medical mistakes are common, and patients may ultimately be powerless to prevent many of these errors. This is especially the case when errors arise due to carelessness or recklessness on the part of a healthcare provider. People who have suffered harm from such lapses should consider consulting with an attorney about the possibility of seeking recompense.

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