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20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors

1. The best and most important way you can help prevent errors is to be an active member of your health care team.

2. Make sure that all of your doctors know about all medicines you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and dietary supplements such as vitamins and herbs.

3. Make sure your doctor knows about any allergies and adverse reactions you have had to medicines.

4. When your doctor writes you a prescription, make sure you can read it.

5. Ask for information about your medicines in terms you can understand. You should ask when your medicines are prescribed and when you receive them.
 - What is the medicine for?
 - How am I supposed to take it, and for how long?
 - What are the side effects? What do I do if I have side effects?
 - Is this medicine safe to take with other medicines or dietary supplements (for example, vitamins and herbs) I am taking?
 - Are there food, drink or activities I should avoid while taking this medicine?

6. When you pick up your medicine from the pharmacy, ask: Is this the medicine that my doctor prescribed?

7. If you have any questions about the directions on your medicine labels, ask.

8. Ask your pharmacist for the best way to measure your liquid medicine. Also, ask questions if you're not sure how to use it.

9. Ask for written information or patient education about the side effects your medicine could cause.
Hospital Stays

10. If you have a choice, choose a hospital at which many patients have had the procedure or surgery you need.

11. If you are in a hospital, consider asking all health care workers who have direct contact with you whether they have washed their hands.

12. When you are being discharged from the hospital, ask your doctor to explain the treatment plan you will use at home.

13. If you are having surgery, make sure that you, your doctor and your surgeon all agree and are clear on exactly what will be done.
Other Steps You Can Take

14. Speak up if you have questions or concerns.

15. Make sure that someone, such as your personal doctor, is in charge of your care.

16. Make sure that all health care professionals involved in your care have important health information about you.

17. Ask a family member or friend to be there with you and to be your advocate (someone who can help get things done and speak up for you if you can't).

18. Know that "more" is not always better.

19. If you have a test, don't assume that no news is good news. Call to find out your results.

20. Learn about your condition and treatments by asking your doctor and nurse and by using other reliable sources.

Click here for more information and a printer-friendly version of the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality’s 20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors.