Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors
Medical errors are one of the nation's leading causes of death and injury. Estimates provided in a recent report by the Institute of Medicine suggest that 44,000 to as many as 98,000* people die in U.S. hospitals and billions of dollars are spent each year as the result of medical errors.
What can you do?
Be involved in your health care. The following tips may help prevent medical errors:
- Be an active member of your health care team. Work with your doctor or other health care providers to make decisions about your care. You have the right to ask questions and get answers you can understand.
- Inform your doctor about all medicines you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicine and dietary supplements such as vitamins and herbs.
- Inform your doctor of any allergies and adverse reactions you have had to medicines.
- Make sure you can read your doctor's prescription. After you fill your prescription, read the label right away. Make sure it is what your doctor ordered for you. If the prescription label does not appear correct, do not take the medicine until you verify the label information with your doctor or pharmacist.
- When you are diagnosed with an illness, learn about your treatment options and make sure that you thoroughly investigate these options with your physician.
- Have complicated procedures performed at hospitals offering the best survival odds, based in part on the number of procedures a particular hospital performs annually. Generally, hospitals and doctors that perform more procedures annually have better outcomes.
What is PHP doing?
PHP is currently working with our urban hospitals to encourage them to install computer physician order entry systems (CPOE) that enable physicians to enter medication orders via computers linked to prescribing-error software. Such systems cut out handwritten errors or flag drug interactions and have been shown to reduce serious prescribing errors in hospitals by more than fifty percent (50%).* In addition, PHP is encouraging urban hospitals with intensive-care units (ICU) to be staffed with doctors who actually have credentials in critical care medicine. When ICUs are staffed with physicians who have credentials in critical care medicine, the risk of patients dying in the ICU have been shown to be reduced by 10%* or more.
By asking questions, learning more and understanding your risks, you may improve the safety of your own health care and that of your family members. Visit The Leapfrog Group website for further information on patient safety and medical error prevention.
*Estimate based on Institute of Medicine study published in December 1999.