Every year, thousands of people in Tennessee and elsewhere suffer the consequences of medical errors. Many of these mistakes are surgical, such as the removal of healthy body parts or one patient wrongfully undergoing surgery scheduled for another person. Many patients leave the hospital in worse condition after treatment due to additional injuries or infections -- often following medication errors.

Some people believe their involvement in their own medical care reduces the risk of treatment errors. Studies have revealed that asking questions and taking an interest in the process can lead to better medical care and could prevent medication errors.

How to get involved in your medical care

People sometimes believe that doctors know everything because they spent many years studying and even more years practicing. However, without your input, there could be some important things that your physician might miss. Although the doctor will be in control, there are some simple ways in which your involvement can help prevent medical errors.

  • Don't let a stranger treat you -- get to know your doctor, and let him or her get to know you.
  • Show your caregivers that you want to participate in your treatment by asking questions. It is your right to know the details about your condition and the suggested treatments.
  • Inform the doctor of every ache and pain, other medications you take, previous surgeries and more. The information he or she has about you can never be too much.
  • Research your condition and the available treatments. Learning about the treatments may prepare you for any side effects you might experience.

Avoiding medication errors

Regardless of whether you are in a hospital or self-medicating your prescription drugs at home, this is an area in which errors often occur. Here are some steps to prevent medication errors:

  • The interaction of different drugs can cause serious health problems. For this reason, inform your doctor about all medicines you take -- including OTC and herbal medications and supplements.
  • Disclose any known allergies to avoid adverse reactions to medication.
  • Ask your physician to describe each type of medication -- why you need it and how it will work, along with information about known side effects.
  • Confirm the exact dosage and frequency of administration, and also confirm the name of your prescribed medication.
  • Double-check the medication dispensed by the pharmacist. Many medication errors occur at this point when the doctor's handwriting causes confusion. Check that the name of the products and the dosages agree with the information provided by your physician.
  • Make sure you receive your medication and not that of somebody else. This is a common error when pharmacists are dealing with multiple customers at the same time.

The possibility of medication or prescription errors will always exist, but you don't have to wait for them to happen. However, if you are the victim of medical negligence, you have the right to seek recovery of financial and other losses by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in a civil court.

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