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How to avoid common but dangerous medical errors

As you age, you are likely going to spend more time on average with healthcare professionals and getting medical treatment than you did in your earlier years. This is just a natural process of getting older and taking good care of your health.

Unfortunately, however, as you come into more frequent contact with the healthcare system, you are also more likely to experience medical errors that, while common, can also be quite dangerous and even deadly. While some errors are impossible for you to prevent, there are some things you can do to protect yourself.

Common medical errors and causes

A study by Johns Hopkins University said medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States. It said more than 250,000 people die from medical errors each year. With such a high number, it is clear that medical errors are not as rare as they may seem. Common medical errors include administering the wrong medication, leaving instruments inside patients after surgery and operating on the wrong body part. 

The researchers found the errors are not the result of inherently bad doctors, but that many are rather a result of problems in the healthcare system itself. These problems include lack of communication, lack of appropriate supervision or training and overworked medical personnel. If a doctor or nurse works in an understaffed facility and while excessively fatigued, errors are more likely to occur. This is just one example of how medical errors can commonly happen.

Ways to defend yourself against medical errors

Although it is true there are some errors you simply cannot prevent, it is also true there are some steps you can take to ensure your healthcare professionals have the best possible chance of avoiding mistakes. Clear communication is essential. Make sure you are in constant contact with your healthcare providers about your condition and symptoms. Be sure to ask questions whenever you have them and anytime you have doubts or do not understand something about your treatment.

If you are undergoing surgery, clarify with your doctor and surgery team about the upcoming procedure and all the details, so you are all clear. If you can select a hospital where the surgery or treatment you need is something commonly performed, this may help ensure you get the most experienced care available. Taking a proactive approach is the best way you can help your healthcare team avoid errors in your treatment.

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