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What can patients do to help prevent medical malpractice?

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To be clear, it is not the responsibility of patients in Virginia to prevent medical malpractice. Hospitals and clinics have an entire team of trained professionals to ensure this never happens, and you also pay good money to ensure it does not. However, medical professionals, like anyone else, make mistakes.

Because of this, it is recommended that you take a few extra steps to ensure your doctor gets the job done right the first time. To this end, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides several tips you can use. Here are a few.

1. Double check prescriptions

When your doctor writes a prescription for you, always ensure you can read it. This way you can correct any misunderstandings with the pharmacist when you arrive. Upon collecting your medication, confirm with the pharmacist that this was the medication your doctor prescribed and compare the label with the name provided by your doctor.

2. Ask medical practitioners to wash their hands

Because people specifically visit hospitals when they are ill, it can be a breeding ground for infections. To reduce your likelihood of infection, before any health care workers touch you, ensure they have washed their hands. If there is a sanitization station in your room, encourage them to use it.

3. Get autographed by your doctor

This is not as glamorous as it sounds. It is standard industry practice for your surgeon to initial the site he will operate on, before surgery. Be sure to check he or she initials on the correct area and on the correct side. If your surgeon does not show up voluntarily to do this before surgery, request that he or she comes to the room.

4. Bring an advocate

It may be easier to safeguard yourself against medical errors if you have a family member or friend to accompany you. It is reasonable to conclude that this person offers a second pair of eyes and ears in case things go wrong, and may be able to speak up on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.

During hospital care, one in seven patients become a victim of medical error. While proper communication does not eliminate every malpractice possibility, it may help to make it less likely. Remember to speak up, ask questions and bring someone with you who can.

This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not to be interpreted as legal advice.

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