The National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) leads National Patient Safety Awareness Week from March 12-18. This campaign is intended to educate health care providers and the public about patient safety, and it focuses on the importance of building relationships among patients, clinicians, and family members to optimize health and promote the protection of patients.
Medical Errors Pose a Significant Public Health Risk
Although the Hippocratic Oath stresses that doctors should strive to do no harm, medical errors remain a significant threat to patient safety. In fact, a 2016 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine found that medical errors were the third leading cause of death in the United States. Only heart disease and cancer claimed more lives.
According to researchers, approximately 250,000 people in the United States lose their lives each year due to medical errors. Thousands of other patients suffer lasting harm as the result of errors made by their care providers.
Issues Addressed During National Patient Safety Awareness Week
The NPSF strives to address a wide range of issues that affect a patient's medical care. Some of the topics discussed during National Patient Safety Week events include:
- The importance of schedules that allow doctors and other care providers adequate time for rest, so they will be less likely to make mistakes related to fatigue
- The need for infection control practices to reduce the risk of hospital acquired infections in patients
- Responsible use of medications to prevent harmful drug interactions
- Using medical records to properly communicate a patient's treatment plan to all care providers
Being an Active Participant in Your Medical Care
One way the NPSF encourages consumers to celebrate National Patient Safety Awareness Week is by pledging to be an active member of their health care team. The pledge, which you can sign online, reads, "I pledge to be an active member of my health care team by participating in my care to the best of my ability. I will ask questions to become better informed and involved in my care, and will discuss my thoughts, preferences, issues and concerns with my health care providers."
Here are some examples of specific actions you can take to be an active member of your health care team:
- Take notes during your appointments. If you're worried you won't understand your doctor's instructions, bring a friend or family member to the appointment.
- Don't hesitate to ask questions or share your concerns about your treatment plan. If you want to learn more about the benefits and risks associated with a particular treatment, ask your doctor to provide informational materials or to recommend websites you can visit.
- Call to follow up with your doctor if you haven't heard about lab test results within the directed timeframe. Don't assume that no news is good news, since a busy facility may misplace results.
- Keep records of all medications you're taking, including over-the-counter pain relievers and dietary supplements. When your doctor prescribes a new medication, ask him to verify that it won't create an interaction with anything on the list.
- Take your medication as directed. Report any side effects you're experiencing promptly, so your doctor can work with you to come up with a better alternative.
Evaluating Your Options When an Error Occurs
While being actively involved in your medical care can reduce the risk of physician errors, mistakes can still occur despite your best efforts. If you've suffered harm due to a care provider's actions, you may be entitled to compensation for your related medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you’ve lost a loved one due to a medical error, you can file a claim on his behalf.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault’s legal team is committed to helping Louisiana residents who've been harmed by a healthcare provider's negligence receive the compensation they need to move forward with their lives. To learn more about your legal options, please call to schedule a no-obligation case review.