Unfortunately, Medical Malpractice is not as uncommon as you might think. A recent study by the Institute of Medicine found that as many as 98,000 people die each year as a result of medical mistakes. That is more than die from Breast Cancer, Car Accidents or AIDS. Medication errors alone are estimated to account for 7,000 deaths each year. In 1996, the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that as many as one fourth of hospital deaths might be preventable. So what can you do?
Pick a Great Doctor
A great doctor is one who is qualified, experienced and attentive. Each of these three is critical. Qualifications mean nothing if the doctor does not take the time to listen to you. Start by asking for recommendations from your family physician, or people you know in the medical profession. Check their qualifications on the internet (a list of helpful sites is listed on our web site). Make sure that they are board certified in their area of medicine.
Get a Second Opinion
Often, doctors will have very different opinions about the appropriate treatment for a particular medical condition. Medicine is a science, but many medical problems have more than one treatment. You wouldn’t buy a car visiting a couple of dealers first – you shouldn’t do any less for health care.
A good doctor will not be offended by questions. Before undergoing any significant treatment, you should understand your diagnosis and the risks of any proposed treatment. There is a great deal of information available online about every conceivable medical condition. In the end, your doctors are likely to be more reliable than the internet, but it is likely to help you know what questions to ask.
Know Your Health Information
Most of the doctors that you see know nothing about your health history, other than what you tell them. When you visit a specialist, they do not usually have copies of your prior treatment records from hospitals or family doctors. If you do not recall all of the information, mistakes become more likely. At a minimum, you should have a list of the medications that you take and the dose. Having a long standing family doctor can help a great deal. Keep a list of medications you are allergic to and past surgeries you have had. Keep this list somewhere where a friend or family member can locate it.
Bring an Advocate
When you go into a hospital for a procedure, you may not be able to speak up for yourself. If possible, always bring a friend or family member who can keep an eye on how you are doing. Even if they have no medical training, they can ask questions or request that someone check out any concerns.
Despite the frequency of medical errors, remember too that most doctors are very good. By taking a active role in your care, you can help your doctor to make sure you get good treatment.
One recurring problem in modern healthcare is lack of information about patients’ health history. When you go to the hospital, they generally do not have your family doctor’s records. Likewise, when you see a specialist, they often have not seen your hospital records. Usually, the doctors you see in the hospital know little of your past medical history.