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How to Minimize the Risk of Becoming a Victim of Medical Errors

Medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Although medical complications and medical errors do not always involve wrongdoing, in many cases medical errors are the result of medical negligence on the part of doctors or hospitals.

Given the high rate of medical errors in this country, patients need to be vigilant about their own health care and proactive about getting the medical care and treatment that they deserve. The following discusses some of the things that patients can do to minimize the risk of becoming a victim of medical errors:

  1. Get a second opinion. Second opinions are one of the most important things you can to do protect your health. In fact, given that diagnostic errors are one of the most common types of medical malpractice, a second opinion just might save your life. As we recently reported, diagnostic mistakes are alarmingly common, resulting in injuries or deaths to more than 160,000 patients each year. According to the New York Times, evidence is mounting that second opinions can lead to significant changes in a patient’s diagnosis or in recommendations for treating a disease, particularly with respect to radiology images and biopsy pathology slides.
  2. Review your records. According to this article,recent studies have shown that both physicians and patients were very receptive to the concept of granting patients access to their own records as a means of ensuring that patients stay proactive about their health care.
  3. Ask questions and educate yourself about your diagnosis. The more information that you have about your medical condition, the better equipped you will be to take an active role in your health care.
  4. Be your own best advocate. According to this article, research shows that patients who are more involved with their medical care tend to receive better medical treatment.
  5. Choose a hospital or health care practice that meets staffing needs. As we recently reported, a study published in the Pediatrics edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that insufficient nurse staffing in neonatal intensive care units is endangering infants. On average, the study found that about one third of all neonatal intensive care units were understaffed, and the highest risk infants were even more frequently exposed to nurses working with too many other patients. Moreover, many incidences of nursing home negligence are the result of understaffed nursing home facilities and overworked nurses.
  6. Be truthful and accurate when providing medical information. Accurate and comprehensive medical information can allow doctors to properly diagnose your medical condition and devise the appropriate treatment plan. On the other hand, inaccurate or incomplete medical information can result in a misdiagnosis or ineffective medical treatment. You should also make sure to include all medications that you are taking – including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and dietary supplements – in order to prevent medication errors.
  7. Schedule surgery for Monday. Research shows that a patient’s risk of death is 44 percent higher if he or she has surgery on a Friday, and 82 percent higher on a weekend, as compared to a Monday.

The Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Cogan & Power, P.C. are dedicated to protecting the victims of medical mistakes, including diagnostic errors, and we encourage patients to take a proactive role in their own medical care.

If you suspect that you have been the victim of medical malpractice or would like more information about how to minimize the risk of medical error, please do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 477-2500 to speak with one of our skilled Chicago medical malpractice attorneys.