The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services defines a medical error as an otherwise preventable mistake made during the course of treatment that adversely affects patients. While many people believe these issues to be infrequent, a study from Johns Hopkins University from May 2016 uncovered an alarming trend: medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the U.S., trailing behind only heart disease and cancer. In all, some 250,000 Americans die each year from these errors, or nearly 700 people everyday.
"Medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the U.S. "
There are ways to avoid these errors and the resulting damage, and it's important patients play an active role.
Keep track of your meds
One of the most frequent contributing causes to medical errors is a lack of information. Specifically, patients don't tell doctors every medicine they've been prescribed. Even missing just one drug could have huge ramifications. For instance, if your doctor doesn't know you take the blood thinner Coumadin and prescribes aspirin for heart health, this could lead to a bleeding disorder. The more knowledge available, the better prepared physicians can be.
Tell your doctor everything
Just as essential, your doctor must also know about any physical conditions you've experienced since your last visit. Has your knee been hurting? Are you having difficulties breathing? Have you seen another doctor, perhaps some kind of specialist? All of these can influence how the doctor develops a treatment plan, and even seemingly insignificant details can have a huge effect on your medical treatment.
Bring plenty of questions
Dr. Howard Luks is a sports medicine professional with years of experience. In his own experience, he believes that not enough patients are comfortable with asking questions. They may be afraid to appear ignorant or that they're wasting the doctor's time. That couldn't be further from the truth, and your physician needs your input and ideas to treat you successfully. Again, no matter how small the question, never fear to bring it up. If it helps, write down a list of questions before your visit.
Be a part of the treatment
We rely on doctors for their experience and insight into medicine. But even if the doctor has 50-plus years of practicing under his belt, don't ever be hesitant to ask what they're doing during a visit. That could be a specific exam procedure or a test; you might just not know what a certain term means. Patients should know they have power when it comes to their treatment. The more of a role you play, the fewer chances for mistakes o just slip by.
Seek out the best care possible
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to prevent medical errors is to ensure you receive the best health care possible. And that means finding experienced and knowledgeable doctors. For just such professional physicians, you can always head to your nearest CareWell Urgent Care Center. With a few dozen clinics across the East Coast, CareWell's expert staff of doctors and nurses can ensure you get the most attentive and through medical care possible.