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How can patients help reduce the chance of medical errors?

Greenville doctors are expected to make sound health care decisions on the behalf of their patients. Unfortunately, a patient's blind trust can contribute to medical errors.

A doctor isn't the only party who provides patient care. A hospital or clinic, surgical team, pharmacists and diagnostic technicians are among the parties, who also may be held accountable when mistakes are made.

One of the most significant problems in health care is poor communication, including exchanges between doctors and patients. A patient who takes an active role in medical decisions is less likely to become a medical malpractice victim than a passive patient. A good example is when a doctor recommends a prescription medication.

Some patients assume physicians are fully aware of their entire medical histories, including any problems with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Consequently, a patient may not mention a decades-old allergic reaction or an earlier drug side effect that could have an impact on what a doctor prescribes.

Proactive patients review past drug-related problems and update doctors on the medicines they take. It's advisable to bring prescription and nonprescription medications with you to an office visit, so a physician can see the drugs and dosages you are taking. Patients also are encouraged to ask pointed questions about any new drugs a doctor recommends.

Make sure you know the name of a new prescription drug, exactly how much and how often to take the drug, the conditions under which using the drug is safe and any possible side effects or contraindications. Make sure this information matches the prescription you receive from a pharmacist. Continue to ask questions if you are unclear about any aspect of taking a drug.

The proactive approach can be extended to interactions with all medical professionals and can reduce errors. Injured patients also may seek the assistance of attorneys to take legal actions against negligent health care providers.

Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, "20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors," accessed Aug. 27, 2015

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