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How can New Yorkers protect themselves from medical mistakes?

People in New York, and elsewhere, depend on their medical providers to look out for their health and well-being. Unfortunately, however, medical errors commonly happen, putting patients at risk. In fact, U.S. News & World Report LP, reports that over 200,000 people die each year as a result of preventable medical mistakes. However, there are some things that patients can do to help protect themselves.

One of the most common types of errors that result in patient injuries are medication-related mistakes. In order to prevent these types of errors, it may be helpful for patients to ensure that all of their doctors know about all of the medications that they are taking. Furthermore, they should ensure that their health care providers know about any adverse reactions or allergies that they have had to medications. People should not be afraid to ask questions to ensure they know what they are taking, for how long they will be on it and what the potential side effects are.

When patients are staying in the hospital, health care-associated infections, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or central line-associated bloodstream infections, are a common issue. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality suggests that patients ask any health care workers who make contact with them if they have washed their hands. This may help them avoid contracting some types of infections. Additionally, it is important that patients ask their doctors questions to ensure that they understand the treatment plan they are meant to follow after their discharge.

Surgical errors, such as wrong procedures or wrong site surgeries, occur all too often. For many patients, this may make the idea of going under the knife an even more upsetting prospect. In order to avoid surgical errors, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recommends that people speak with their physicians and agree on what procedure will be performed. Many health care providers mark the body part that the surgery is meant to be performed on. If they are able, patients should watch as these marks are being made or check them to ensure that the correct body part is marked.

Perhaps the most important thing that people can do to protect themselves from surgical mistakes is to speak up if they have questions. Patients have the right to know what is going on with their bodies and their care.

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