Who is responsible for your healthcare? Is it the government, doctor, pharmacist, nurse or other healthcare professionals? You and only you are responsible for your health care. If something goes wrong you are the only one that will suffer. Healthcare providers are experts who you hire to help take care of you. Healthcare professionals and institutions are your advisors and employees while you are receiving care from them; similar to hiring a lawyer or a real estate agents. Supervise them. And yes, you can fire them if they are not taking good care of you! You are the most important member of the healthcare team; it is your healthcare team. Get involved in your health care.
Thousands of Americans die each year because of medical errors. Healthcare professionals have the best intentions but sometimes the system fails and despite their best efforts medical mistakes occur. Medical errors include errors in treatment or diagnosis and can occur at any point in care. Here are some suggestions for avoiding medical errors.
Learn about your condition and treatments. Educated health consumers are able to ask the right questions, notice if something is wrong and what steps to take.
Communicate directly with your healthcare providers and be open and honest. Remember they work for you and they should respect your wishes. Don’t be intimidated.
Get a second opinion before you undergo any complicated procedures or invasive tests. Ask about risks and benefits of any procedure and alternative treatments.
Get a healthcare advocate (patient care partner). This could be a relative or friend that can help you ask the right questions and provide support. The more medical training they have the better.
Choose your doctors carefully. Observe how they communicate with you and educate you about your care and treatments. Avoid healthcare professionals who do not explain your therapy or are dismissive. Interview them about their training and qualifications.
Read every document that is provided and understand all forms before you sign them.
If you have a language barrier request a translator or take someone with you that can help you communicate with your providers. Look for providers who speak your language and understand your culture.
Learn about all your medications. Know why, how, when, and how long you should take them. Learn what to expect, side effects, and drug interactions. Alway keep a list of your medications and what they are for.
Before leaving the pharmacy request counseling and make sure you know how to use your medications. Verify that what the doctor told you is the same medication that was provided to you. If the medication looks different ask the pharmacist why your medication looks different.
Hire a personal pharmacist if you are taking many medications. They will review your medications and make sure they are appropriate for you. They can also serve as your advocate.
Try to avoid complicated surgeries or invasive diagnostic tests on holidays and weekends. If something goes wrong you want everyone available to help.
Be prepared for emergencies and know who or where to call.
Avoiding medical errors begins with taking ownership for your healthcare and partnering with healthcare providers to obtain the best care. It is your healthcare team so get the most out of them and help them perform for your benefit.
Here are helpful resources for more information.