Nearly everyone will need healthcare at some point. Being a patient means putting your trust in someone else. While most Americans have had positive experiences with healthcare providers, 21 percent of adults report having personally experienced medical error, according to a national survey released in 2017 by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF). Medical mistakes can often have lasting impacts on a patient’s physical health, financial well-being or family relationships. Some studies suggest that medical error may cause as many as 400,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

Medical errors and safety lapses can happen in many forms:

  • Diagnosis: National Academy of Medicine estimates suggest that 5 percent of U.S. adults who seek outpatient care experience a diagnostic error.
  • Infection: The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates that 1 in 31 hospitalized patients will contract an infection there.
  • Medication errors and adverse events: These are the most common errors in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

In recognition of patient safety issues, IHI and NPSF have created National Patient Safety Awareness Week March 10-16 to focus on a culture of safety and patient engagement.

While most will receive medical treatment without errors, mistakes can be made. Patients have a responsibility to take part in their care. The following are ways to be proactive and help reduce the possibility of healthcare errors.

  • Share your health history with your caregiver. This includes medication, operations or allergies. The more your caregiver knows, the more successful your care plan and recovery will be.
  • Be your own advocate or ask someone you trust to be one for you. Know all the who, what, when, where and why about your care and treatment. Expect everyone involved in your care to introduce themselves by name, and to wear an identification badge.
  • Make sure to tell your healthcare professional if you think he or she has you confused with another patient, if you think you are about to receive the wrong medication or if something doesn’t seem right. Don’t assume anything.
  • Ask your doctor about the specialized training and experience that qualify him or her to treat your illness. Medical terminology can be confusing; make sure you understand the words used by your caregivers.
  • Be sure to ask any questions you may have before signing any forms. Write down important facts your doctor tells you.
  • Help reduce the risk of infection.Remind caregivers and everyone around you to wash their hands before they care for you. Wash your own hands and keep any wounds clean and dry.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries or wrongful death due to healthcare safety errors, contact an attorney to discuss your legal options. The attorneys at Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz, P.A. are board certified by the Florida Bar. Areas of practice include personal injury and accidents, fall and premises liability, wrongful death, medical malpractice.