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Medical errors are mistakes in
health care that could have been prevented. They can occur in hospitals,
clinics, surgery centers, doctors' offices, nursing homes, pharmacies, and your
home. Errors can involve medicines, surgery, diagnosis, home treatment, equipment, or lab
reports. They are often caused by a lack of good communication. Medical errors
may result in injury or death.
Some examples of medical errors
thing you can do to prevent medical errors is to be involved in your health
care. Learn and know about your health problem, medicine, and treatment as best
you can and take part in making all decisions about your care. Talk to everyone
who is involved in your health care. This includes your doctors, other health
professionals, family, and friends.
Before you agree to a
medicine, treatment plan, surgery, or lifestyle change, such as changing what
you eat, be sure you understand it. Always ask if you are not clear on what, how, or why.
The following steps can help you prevent
There are places you can check to see how your health care
is rated. Here are a few of them:
How to use medicines
can be confusing, especially if you are using a lot of medicines. You need to
keep track of when and how to take them, and prescriptions and labels are not
always easy to understand. So it's easy for an error with medicine to
This form(What is a PDF document?) can help you know what to ask about a new medicine.
For more information, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
medical errors happen in the hospital. For example,
you may receive the wrong meal or medicine. Here are some things you can ask to
Before going to a hospital for a surgery or procedure, ask
how often the procedure is done. Research shows that you likely will have better results
when you go to a hospital that has a lot of experience with a health problem or
Before you have
surgery, be sure that you and all your doctors know what is going to happen.
Be sure to tell your doctors:
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is
one agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. AHRQ
supports research initiatives that seek to improve the quality of health care
in America. AHRQ's mission is to improve the quality, safety, efficiency,
effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of health care for all Americans. The website provides evidence-based information to help people make decisions about
health care services.
This website is hosted by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a nonprofit organization. You'll find tips about how to prevent medicine errors at home, at the hospital, and at the pharmacy. You can sign up for safety alerts about your medicines, and you can report medicine safety concerns.
This U.S. Health and Human Services website has information and tools about health insurance and the health care system. For example, you can find quality of care ratings for hospitals and other medical centers. You can learn about health care reform in America and health insurance options. You'll also find tips and tools for staying healthy.
Medically Induced Trauma Support Services (MITSS)
is a nonprofit organization that supports, educates, trains and offers assistance to individuals affected by
an adverse medical event.
The National Patient Safety Foundation is an organization dedicated
to improving the safety of patients. The foundation works to raise public
awareness about patient safety and is a resource for people and organizations
who are concerned about the safety of patients.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2000).
20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors. Patient Fact
Sheet (AHRQ Publication No. 00-P038). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare
Research and Quality. Also available online:
Other Works Consulted
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2002). 20 tips to help prevent medical errors in children. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Also available online: http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/20tipkid.htm.
HealthGrades (2010). The Seventh Annual HealthGrades Patient Safety in American Hospitals Study. Golden, CO: HealthGrades. Also available online:
Lannon C, et al. (2007). Quality and safety in health
care for children. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th ed., pp. 14–18. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Leape LL, Berwick DM (2005). Five years after To Err Is Human: What have we learned? JAMA, 293(19): 2384–2390.
Persell SD, et al. (2008). Performance measurement in clinical practice. In EG Nabel ed., ACP Medicine, Clinical Essentials, chap. 13. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
Steinman MA, Hanlon JT (2010). Managing medications in clinically complex elders: "There's got to be a happy medium." JAMA, 304(14): 1592–1601.
April 19, 2011
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine & Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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