Two-hundred and seventy fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, and friends will die today as a result of medical malpractice and preventable medical errors. The same was true yesterday and will repeat itself tomorrow. As hospitals, physicians, and nurses continue to navigate the changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”); patient safety remains a serious and constant problem. You might be wondering, “What can I do to protect myself and my family from medical malpractice?” The best thing anyone can do to protect themselves from anything is to take their safety into their own hands, and in 4 simple steps, you can gain control of your safety as a patient.
Because most hospitals and physicians have converted to electronic medical records, or EMRs, it has become simple for patients to accumulate a full set of their records. Ask your physician to email your records and diagnostic test results to you after every visit. Many physicians will even place a copy of your visits on a flash drive that you can attach to your keys. Then, in case of an emergency, you will have all of your medical records with you. Remember to use a password so that your records will remain confidential in case you lose your flash drive.
Many people have living wills in which they appoint family or friends to make medical decisions in case they are unconscious or otherwise incapable of decision making. While these documents can inform your healthcare providers of your decisions if you are unable to communicate with them, in today’s rushed medical environment, a bigger challenge exists. Because of the volume of patients, physicians’ and hospitals’ efforts to maximize efficiency, and numerous channels of communication among healthcare providers, it is very difficult for patients today to get the information necessary to make informed decisions. There are many times that important test results are not communicated to patients or patients remain unaware of their treatment options when faced with serious problems. Having someone close to you appointed as your advocate can provide another set of eyes and ears to monitor your care and assist in decision making. It is natural to have our reasoning distorted when faced with scary health news. A trusted advocate can be useful in helping us navigate the different decisions and hurdles that we face. Often times, all you need to do is to advise the physician and hospital, in writing, that you permit this individual to learn confidential information about you and that your advocate may participate in your medical decision making.
Carry with you a list of your current medications and any allergies you may have. If you are ever hospitalized or even have to visit the emergency room, having a complete list of medications and allergies will ensure that the physicians are fully informed and can consider any possible drug interactions or allergies before initiating treatment. Often times, when patients are brought to the emergency room, they are nervous, in pain, and not always capable of being completely accurate. Carrying a list can prevent any misunderstanding.
We are often intimidated when walking into a physician’s office or a hospital. We are fearful of what we might learn or how our lives may be affected. At the same time, physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers are very busy and often juggling a great deal of information. Sometimes, treating healthcare providers are not as thorough in explaining things as they would like to or intend to be. Similarly, sometimes treating healthcare providers forget information, medical history, test results, and other important information. There is nothing wrong with asking questions of your treaters about your condition, treatment options, risks, and benefits. The only stupid question is the one you do not ask.
At Messa & Associates, we are committed to improving patient safety. Virtually every day, we console clients whose lives have been irreparably changed because hospitals and physicians break patient safety rules and deviate from standards of care. We feel the impact that these harms and losses have on victims, their families, and their friends. We remain frustrated by witnessing the number of preventable errors that routinely occur. If any one of these suggestions can protect you or a loved one, we will be one step closer to eradicating this dangerous trend.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Messa & Associates are experienced in handling complex medical malpractice cases, including but not limited to MRSA infections, surgical site infections, foreign objects, missed diagnoses, surgical errors, and treatment errors/negligence. If you or a loved one has fallen victim to medical negligence at a hospital, nursing home, or rehab facility, act quickly. Call a medical malpractice attorney from Messa & Associates today, before your rights to legal compensation have expired. Call 877-MessaLaw for a free consultation or submit an inquiry online for a free case evaluation.