Britton Law, P.A.
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Patient engagement crucial to limiting medical errors

With headlines warning people in North Carolina that medical errors represent the third most common cause of death, someone about to enter a hospital may want to take an active role in preventing mistakes. The complicated nature the health care system creates an ongoing opportunity for errors. A single treatment can involve many people taking many steps. Poor communication, distractions or bad system design increase problems at every turn within health care facilities. Confronted by such possibilities, a patient should learn to ask questions.

Because medication mistakes account for a large portion of errors, patients should ask for specifics about their medicine. Follow-up questions should cover what the purpose of the medication is and the medical reason for its use. A patient should insist on speaking with a doctor before taking medication if a staff member cannot adequately answer these questions.

Inherent risks accompany any surgery. That's why one should be as informed as possible about a potential surgery before agreeing to a procedure. A doctor should provide satisfactory answers to questions about the risks and expected outcomes of the surgery and explain potential alternative treatments.

By asking questions, a patient might improve communication among health care workers and avoid a medical mistake. If a problem does arise because of an error, then the victim could investigate the potential of a medical malpractice lawsuit with an attorney. Outside medical experts could be consulted by the attorney to provide testimony about the medical error and the damages suffered by the victim. An attorney could attempt to negotiate a settlement directly with the health care provider or take the case to court.

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