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How to Protect Yourself From Medical Errors

In Hospitals

  • Designate someone to be your contact person with the medical professionals.
  • Ask before you take medicine if the drug and amount are correct
  • Make sure health care professionals know all medications you are currently taking
  • Never be afraid to ask questions of the doctors, nurses, or ask your designated person to do it. If you are not sure or don't understand, ASK.
  • Let a medical person know any side effects or symptoms you experience as soon as possible.
  • For major surgery, make sure the area to be operated on is clearly marked to better ensure a mistake is not made while you are under anesthesia.

In Doctors Offices

  • Write down all questions you want to ask your doctor before the appointment
  • Bring your insurance card and ask if your plan covers any treatments or procedures.
  • Don't sit too closely to other patients in the waiting room.
  • Make sure you completely understand the doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan before you leave.
  • Get written instructions of what/when/how you are to take any medications, treatments required and activities you can participate in.
  • Discuss with your doctor all drugs recommended and find out if there are alternative drugs or treatments, and why the doctor favors this particular drug. Do the risks outweigh the benefits?
  • Do not be bashful or afraid to ask questions. If you are not sure or don't understand, ASK.

In Nursing Homes

  • Make sure you as well as the staff have a written medical history of all illnesses and medical conditions that your loved one suffers from, i.e., high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, etc.
  • Make sure you as well as the staff have a written list of all medications the nursing home resident should be taking.
  • Be aware of all medical conditions, constraints, allergies, symptoms and reactions to medications for this resident.
  • Make sure a proper meal plan is available and that the staff knows any foods the resident cannot eat.
  • Have the phone numbers of all doctors handy for any questions that may arise during your visit.
  • Have the phone number of another relative or designated person to make a call if you need to discuss an issue.
  • Look for low back, buttocks or foot sores or ulcers.
  • Make sure all precautions and safety measures are taken to protect the resident's safety.

In An Emergency / At Urgent Care Centers

  • Immediately tell medical personnel if you know of any allergies or reactions to any medications.
  • Report all complaints and symptoms, no matter how insignificant you think they are.
  • Do not be afraid to ask doctors the same questions more than once. It can be confusing in an emergency situation.
  • Before you take any medications or shots, always ask what and why.
  • Do not be afraid to ask doctors the same questions more than once. It can be confusing in an emergency situation. If you are not sure or don't understand, ASK.

With Home Health Care Services

  • Before hiring a home health care professional, meet him personally and check out the background of the company providing the service.
  • Make sure you have in writing the types of services the person will provide, and what they won’t.
  • Make sure the professional is aware of all medications, medical conditions, and constraints.
  • Post a complete list of all medications, dosages, medication frequency, doctor phone numbers and emergency numbers in a prominent place in the home, such as on the refrigerator or family bulletin board. If the home health care professional is not fluent in English, post the same list in his or her most natural language.
  • Make sure the person washes his hands, is clean, and neat.

At the Pharmacy

  • Know the side effects to look out for when taking a new drug.
  • Make sure the pharmacist knows any other drugs you are taking to avoid harmful interactions between medications.
  • Immediately notify your doctor if you have any reactions after taking a new drug.
  • Before you leave the pharmacy, check your filled prescription to make sure it is correct. Ask the pharmacist to confirm this if you aren’t sure.
  • Always check your mail order drugs as soon as you receive them to make sure the order is correct, and call immediately if it is not.
  • Read the accompanying materials about any new drug you are taking, and call your doctor with any questions. If you are not sure or don’t understand, ASK.

Alan W. Clark & Associates represent clients throughout Long Island and the New York Metropolitan Area, including New York County, Richmond County, Kings County, Queens County, Bronx County, Nassau County, Suffolk County, and Westchester County.

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