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Active patient involvement may prevent medical malpractice

In our previous post we discussed the recent tragic death of a premature baby due to a medication error and a recent study which indicates that the vast majority of hospital errors are unreported.

A medical correspondent for CBS News said that errors in neonatal care facilities are eight times more likely than normal and may be caused by equipment or human errors. The medical correspondent said that sometimes there's just not much that a patient can do to prevent medical mistakes.

Although strategies are being put in place to prevent medical mistakes, the correspondent said that sometimes "you just have to hope for the best and be active and involved when someone in your family is in that setting."

Active patient involvement is one important way to prevent medical errors. It is a good idea to talk to a doctor and ask as many questions as possible, says the medical correspondent. If someone might be admitted to the hospital it is a good idea to bring a family friend or relative. A less emotionally invested person may be able to pay attention, hear the responses from the doctor, and go over your options with you.

"The key here is to be active, to be involved, to be an advocate," the correspondent said. "A lot of people are embarrassed or ashamed, and they don't want to speak up, don't want to cause trouble. That's actually the opposite of what a patient or their family should do."

Active involvement includes asking your doctors and nurses to sanitize their hands in front of you, questioning medical staff about procedures, and being sure that the staff is aware of any allergies a patient may have. Patients should also ask for written information on the types of procedures being performed and written instructions on how to continue a patient's care after the hospital stay.

Source: CBS News, "Baby's death prompts war against hospital errors," 4/22/11

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