A medical error is an unexpected outcome, an unexpected or wrong plan used in a patient's care. In other words - a mistake! These can occur in any health care setting, hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, surgery centers or even pharmacies. It can include a misdiagnosis, wrong medication, wrong surgery, mixed up records or lab results, medical equipment malfunction and so much more.
The most important thing you can do to help prevent a medical error from happening to you is to get involved in your medical care. Be sure you have a good line of communication with your doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor all medications or vitamins or supplements you are taking and be honest and forthcoming with all of your past medical history.
When you are given a prescription for a medication, make sure the prescription is legible. Ask your doctor, what medication you are taking, why, the dosage and the route of administration. This way you are informed and can be sure the pharmacy gives you exactly what the doctor prescribed and explained to you.
If you are being admitted to a hospital, be sure that everyone you speak to knows why you are there, what body part is being tested or operated on and be sure to have all your questions answered before you agree to anything.
If you are handed any medication as a patient BE SURE to ask the nurse - What is this for? What is the name of this medication? What are the side effects and anything else you feel the need to ask.
When being discharged from the hospital, be SURE you go over the discharge instructions carefully. Understand what your limitations are and restrictions. Know what type of medication you will be expected to take at home, how and why and when you need to follow up with the doctor at his/her office again.
Lastly, take someone with you. The more you can have a "helper" or "advocate" there to absorb the information or ask the questions, the easier it will be for you to focus on getting well.
All of this will help ensure that everything is understood, so there is minimal opportunity for a medical error to happen to you.