Did you know that Patient Safety Awareness Week is this week, March 10th – 16th? This annual event brings recognition to the importance of patient safety and encourages people to learn more about health care safety in general. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates that 1 in 31 hospitalized patients will acquire an infection in a health care facility. Further, medication errors and diagnostic errors are some of the most common errors found in health care settings. During this week, we are joining the global discussion of patient safety by sharing information with you about why patient safety is important and how we all play a role in advancing safe health care.

A 2017 survey found that 21 percent of Americans have experienced a medical error while receiving health care. The harm that can result from these errors can have serious, long-lasting effects on the patient. These effects may include physical, emotional, and financial. While it is almost impossible to control all aspects of the health care we receive, there are a few simple ways we, as patients, can use to help minimize errors from occurring during treatment.

First, consider carrying a medication card with you in your wallet that lists the medications you take, the dosage of the medications, and when the medications were prescribed to you. If you seek medical attention, you can easily provide the medical professional with this information and help prevent any medication errors from occurring. We also encourage you to take this one step further and keep a detailed journal containing all of this information, as well as the names of medical professionals you see, the dates you visited a medical professional, and any worries or concerns you may have had.

There are a variety of resources available online and in doctor’s offices that provide information about certain diagnoses and medical procedures. We encourage you to consider reviewing a list of general medical terms before any visit to a medical professional, as well as perform some in-depth, independent research about any diagnoses you receive. In addition, consider seeking a second-opinion before committing to receiving a specific course of treatment.

Above all, do not be afraid to ask questions. If a health care professional recommends a certain course of treatment that you do not know much about, ask him or her to explain it to you. If the way that a medical professional is treating you is causing you some concern, speak up and ask him or her to explain why they are performing a procedure in that way, if they can do anything to make you more comfortable, and if there are any alternatives.

Above all, remember that patient safety affects all of us and we each have a role to play in the advancement of this safety. Do you have questions? We are your local community law firm here to help you. Do not wait to contact us at any time, day or night.