To Prevent Medical Errors Take Control of Your Healthcare

As many serious medical errors happen in the outpatient setting (doctors’ offices) than in hospital!

Invasive and high-technology diagnostic and therapeutic procedures are increasingly being performed in the outpatient setting so researchers decided to compare the number and seriousness of adverse events in inpatient and outpatient settings, as reflected by malpractice claims. And, to the researchers surprise the numbers are pretty much the same.

In 2009, the last year of the study, there were 4,910 payments due to inpatient errors, 4,448 due to outpatient errors, and 966 involving both settings. Together, these payments were worth more than $3.3 billion. And these weren’t trivial errors — death and major injuries were the most common reason for malpractice claims.

The researchers said the most common errors were different across the two settings, with surgical mistakes dominating the claims for hospitalized patients and misdiagnosis being the biggest problem at the doctor’s office. The problem in the outpatient setting is that rigorous, effective programs for controlling the risk of errors don’t exist right now.

Misdiagnosis, on the other hand, can be largely prevented if we TAKE CONTROL of our healthcare. You see, misdiagnosis is often the result of poor doctor-patient communication. Approximately 15% of all patients are misdiagnosed, which results in serious harm to about half of them. In Dr. Jerome Groopman’s book, “How Doctors Think”, he writes that most doctor errors are due to mistakes in their thinking. Doctors can make mistakes because of snap judgements based on the first symptom, physical finding, or lab value, or by stereotyping or categorizing patients’ symptoms. Therefore, it is very important to provide your doctor with all the information she needs to make an accurate diagnosis-no holding back-and, to ask the right questions so she can focus her attention on you! Some of these questions include:

  • What is my diagnosis, and what does it mean?
  • What else could my diagnosis be?
  • Could there be more than one thing going on to explain my symptoms?
  • Is there anything in my history, physical exam, or test results that does not fit your diagnosis?
  • How serious is my diagnosis?

Additionally, patients can help lower the chance that their doctor will make a mistake by learning about the tests and medications they get, and keeping their doctor up to speed about what’s happening to them between visits.

“I do hope that patients will realize that it’s important to take control of what happens in their healthcare,” one researcher said. It’s the best way to stay safe.



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  1. Prevent Costly Medical By Taking Control Of Your Healthcare | NewsTaco - January 10, 2012

    […] As many serious medical errors happen in the outpatient setting (doctors’ offices) as in hospitals. […]

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