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5 Steps you can take to avoid a medical mistake

Going to the hospital can be terrifying, even if you're there for a simple, routine procedure. That's because we oftentimes hear stories on the news or from people we know describing instances in which negligence at a hospital led to a serious or fatal medical mistake. For a lot of people, though, in the back of their minds, they wonder how often a medical mistake really happens.

According to a May 2016 analysis published through the BMJ Publishing Group, more often than you may think. It's estimated that nearly 251,000 people die every year in the United States because of medical mistakes. So what can you do to avoid becoming a statistic yourself? Follow these five simple steps.

  1. Make sure your doctor can answer all of your questions. If your doctor is trained and knowledgeable, their responses to your queries should be detailed and thorough.
  2. At the hospital, check and recheck with staff the medications you are receiving. The Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy estimates that at least 1.5 million people are harmed each year because of a medication error. In many of those cases, mistakes could have been avoided had more attention been paid by staff.
  3. If you're going into surgery, talk to your surgeon and anesthesiologist. Get to know the medical professionals who will be treating you. Get a feel for their understanding of the procedure you are about to undergo and don't be afraid to ask them about their history, including any failed procedures.
  4. Don't be afraid to get a second opinion. Getting a second opinion about your condition or a suggested treatment is never a bad idea, especially if it contradicts what you've learned from reputable sources.
  5. Review the medications you have been prescribed with the pharmacist. Before you leave the hospital, double check to make sure you've been prescribed the correct medication and in the correct dosage. Many medication errors result because a doctor confused two similar sounding medications or miscalculated a dosage.

While these five steps don't cover all medical mistakes that could occur, they do cover the common ones reported by hospitals throughout the nation. By following these steps, you could prevent one more medical mistake from going on the books.

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