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Tips for Avoiding a Medical Error This Summer

Right around this time last year, we warned our readers about the “July Effect.” The term refers to the 10% spike in fatalities at teaching hospitals during the month of July. Researchers speculate that the rise in medical errors is likely associated with the influx of new doctors who begin residencies in July.

In many cases, the errors, such as medication mistakes, are easily preventable. Therefore, we suggest that all patients keep these tips in mind if they find themselves in a San Diego hospital this summer.

  • Check out your doctor and hospital. In addition to verifying your doctor’s credentials, you should inquire about his or her experience in treating your specific condition. The more often a doctor has performed a procedure, the more familiar she is with its variations and complications and the higher her success rate is likely to be. You should also find out how the hospital’s infection rates compare to other area hospitals.
  • Understand scheduling matters. Try to avoid surgery on weekends, nights, and holidays when hospitals may be short-staffed and workers may be fatigued. Stroke patients treated in hospitals on Saturday and Sunday were 16% more likely to die than those treated on weekdays, according to a recent study from the University of Toronto.
  • Find out if the hospital uses electronic records. Medication orders are often a source of error. If possible, use a hospital with electronic records, which can reduce prescription mistakes sevenfold, according to a recent Weill Cornell Medical College study.
  • Bring your actual prescription bottles with you. Doctors suggest you bring your actual prescriptions to the hospital–don’t just write down the names. “You cut chances of blunders such as missed doses and interactions when the staff sees what you’re taking,” says Tanya Froelich, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
  • Be aware of shift changes. The chance of medical error rises dramatically during shift changes, says Arthur Aaron Levin, MPH, director of the Center for Medical Consumers. Before your current nurse leaves, request time to review your chart and what treatment you’re supposed to get next. And meet with your new nurse, too, to ask any questions you have, advises Caitlin Brennan, RN, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Case Western Reserve University Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.
  • Ask for help from friends and family. When you’re a patient in the hospital, you’re likely to be worried, stressed out, and under sedation at times, so it’s helpful to have friends and family with you to act as your advocates. By acting as extra eyes and ears for you, this team can keep track of your treatment and may prevent errors that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Source: MSNBC

If you or someone you love has suffered from a medical error, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.