Assertive patient advocates may help prevent medical mistakes

By Greg Kohn

When it comes healthcare, it is important for patients to be aware of what is going on from a treatment perspective. However, too often patients shy away from questioning their healthcare providers, and blindly accept their doctor’s decision. To prevent medical errors or mistakes from occurring, it is now becoming important for patients to always have a family member, friend or a professional advocate present to take notes and ask questions.

Our New Jersey readers will find it helpful to keep the following tips in mind when visiting a doctor or accompanying a family member or friend to the hospital. It may seem like a minor point, but it is important for the patient to know the name of the doctor. All patients have a right to review their medical records, be informed about the treatment or procedure one is about to receive and understand the risks involved. The patient may also authorize their advocate to see the records.

The following are some examples of ways to avoid medical errors when receiving treatment. Patient falls are one of the leading causes of injuries, and thus it is important early on to inform the healthcare provider if the patient is at risk of falling. In hospitals environments, doctors and nurses will visit many patients. To minimize infections, one should not hesitate to ask healthcare provider to wash their hands.

Medication errors harm nearly 1.5 million people annually. Patients and their advocates should make sure that the doctor or nurse explains the purpose of the medication, informs one of the dosage and any possible side-effects and interferences. It is important for patients to read all forms and documentation before signing them. If the information is difficult to understand, ask questions and get answers.

Nearly 40 cases of surgery on the wrong body part occur weekly. When it comes to surgical intervention, patients should make sure that the site of surgery is marked and verified before surgery. Patients should consult with the doctor to see what can be done to minimize post-surgical infections.

These tips will help patients and their families play an active role in their healthcare. Nonetheless, despite these steps, if a medical error or mistake were to occur, it may be necessary to contact a medical malpractice attorney to have the facts of one’s case evaluated.

Source: Washington Post, “Hospital patients need an advocate at their side to avoid medical errors,” Roni Rabin, April 29, 2013

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.