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Patient Safety 

Patient safety tips

Being an educated patient might be the best defense against medical errors. One of the most frequent factors in medical errors is poor communication. So if you’re familiar with your condition and ask good questions, you can do a lot to ensure safer care.

Never assume that each of your health care providers knows everything about your condition. Be an active partner in your health care. Use whatever information you have as a basis for better discussions with your doctor. The safety tips provided below can be used as a starting point:

  • Be prepared for your visit. Have your questions written down and don’t be afraid to ask them.
  • Learn as much as you can about your conditions and treatments.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask all health care workers who have direct contact with you to wash their hands before caring for you.
  • Ask a family member or friend to stay with you during appointments or hospitalizations so they can help you communicate and understand.
  • If you are in the hospital or an outpatient setting, make sure each person checks your ID bracelet or verifies your name before giving you medications, treatments or procedures.
  • Tell your physicians and pharmacist everything that you are taking. This includes prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs and dietary supplements. Always keep an updated list of medications with you.
  • Ideally, get all of your medications from one pharmacy so it can help watch for potential drug interactions.
  • Ask if there are any lab tests or other tests you should have regularly as long as you are taking the medicine.
  • Ask your physician to explain any treatment plans in terms you understand.
  • If you have a test, make sure you receive and understand what the result. Call your doctor’s office if you haven’t heard back within a reasonable amount of time.
  • Ensure that each physician who is providing care to you is aware of the other physicians you are seeing, as well as the medications and treatments ordered by them.
  • Understand that more treatment is not always better. Unnecessary treatment might cause harm.
  • If you are having surgery, make sure that you, your physicians, and your surgeons agree on what will be done. Check your paperwork to make sure the correct procedure, including the correct location or side, is clearly documented. Make sure the correct site on your body is marked before surgery.
  • Establish and maintain a personal health record that you share with your family.
  • Be aware of any patient safety event that arises and discuss it with your health care providers. Be sure to tell your health care provider about any situation that may put your safety at risk.

How we promote patient safety

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

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