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How can you protect yourself from medical errors?

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, one in seven Medicare patients in a hospital setting is subject to medical errors. However, AHRQ goes on to explain that medication errors can happen in any setting and at any touchpoint within the health care system. Medication errors can be dangerous, if not fatal. Whether your Washington doctor prescribes you one medication or several, there are certain steps you can take to keep yourself safe from harm. 

The best way to prevent medication errors is to remain an active and participating member of your health care team. Research shows that patients who are more involved in their treatment experience better outcomes and are less likely to fall victim to medical malpractice. 

As for the medications themselves, remain hyper-vigilant about what your doctor prescribes you when he or she prescribes it. When your doctor writes your prescription, make sure you can read it. Also, make sure your doctor has all the necessary information for safe prescribing. That includes the names of all the medicines you currently take, the names of supplements you use and any known allergies or adverse reactions to medications you have or have had. 

Before leaving your doctor’s office, make sure you know why your doctor prescribed a medication, how you are supposed to take it and for how long. Also, inquire as to possible side effects and whether there are certain foods, drinks or activities you should avoid while on the medication. 

Your caution should not stop when you leave the doctor’s office. When you pick up your prescription from the pharmacist, double-check that the prescription is, in fact, yours and that it is correct. If you have questions about the label or instructions, do not hesitate to ask the technician. Request a written list of possible side effects and ask about which measuring device you should use for the particular medication.