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Common medical mistakes and how to avoid them

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that 1 in 7 patients on Medicare will encounter a medical error while in a hospital. The truth is that a mistake can happen anytime anyone practices medicine in Massachusetts or across the country. To avoid those errors, the AHRQ recommends that patients do the following:

  • Alert doctors about any medications they may be taking
  • Research a facility before scheduling surgery
  • Ensure staff members wash their hands before treatment
  • Ask for clear directions regarding medications

Some errors, however, are out of a patient’s hands. Johns Hopkins University released a report that diagnostic mistakes are the most common errors that trigger medical malpractice claims. This can occur when a physician’s diagnosis is wrong, delayed or missed entirely.

Psychology Today outlines several other common mistakes associated with negligence, including “never events,” which are situations in which a physician operates on the wrong body part or leaves an instrument inside someone after surgery. These errors are never supposed to happen, but they can, and they have serious consequences.

Medication errors are also near the top of the list of leading medical negligence issues. Giving someone the wrong dosage or wrong prescription can lead to further illness or even death. The Institute of Medicine reports that these errors affect about 1.5 million people every year. Patients may be able to prevent an issue, the AHRQ suggests, by letting physicians know about any allergies to medications, double checking with the pharmacy about the prescription and understanding exactly how and when to take the medicine.

Lastly, unnecessary tests and treatment are common mistakes that can adversely affect a patient. Surgeries that are not crucial to treatment can lead to a rough recovery at best and negative health issues or even death at worst.

Patients who are active in their own care can make strides in preventing these errors. If something does go wrong, those affected should hold responsible parties accountable. 

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