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16 Ways to Prevent Medical Mistakes

  • June 20, 2011
  • 6:01 pm
  • 2 of 5

1. Choose Carefully
Infections that are acquired after checking into the hospital kill 31,000 patients a year, which nearly rivals the number of breast cancer deaths annually, says Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD, the author of Safe Patients, Smart Hospitals. What’s more, most of these could easily have been prevented. If you have a choice of hospitals, ask if your doctor knows your options’ infection rates, which are measured using “catheter days,” meaning every 24 hours that a tube is inserted in a patient’s blood vessels. “The best hospitals’ rates have been zero in one thousand catheter days for a year or more,” says Dr. Pronovost. “If it’s risen above three, I’d be worried.”

2. Practice Makes Perfect
The more often a doctor has performed a procedure, the more familiar she is with its variations and complications and the higher her success rate is likely to be. Confirm that your physician is board certified in her specialty (check the American Board of Medical Specialties at, but also ask her how many times she’s treated your condition.

3. Timing is Everything
Weekends, nights, and holidays are not the optimal times for operations. Even the lead-up to the weekend can be problematic: “For elective surgery, avoid a Friday afternoon operation slot if possible,” advises a surgeon in a busy Midwestern hospital who asked not to be named. “The operating room staff may be fatigued and less able to concentrate then.”

It gets worse on the weekend. Stroke patients treated in hospitals on Saturday and Sunday were 16 percent more likely to die than those treated on weekdays, found a recent study from the University of Toronto. Staffing tends to be lighter then; getting lab results takes longer; and on-call docs have to drive in from home.

4. Go Digital
Often, in a busy hospital, complicated medication orders are dictated quickly to harried staffs, so they can frequently be a source of error. If possible, use a hospital with electronic records, which can reduce prescription slipups sevenfold, according to a recent Weill Cornell Medical College study. When information is entered, the computer alerts staff to potential problems by beeping, freezing, and/or flashing a warning message to prevent improper dosages, incorrectly filled prescriptions, and dangerous drug interactions. Only 17% of hospitals have such a system for medications, but it’s worth checking for: After the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford in Palo Alto, CA, adopted one, its death rates dropped by 20%.

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10:52PM PDT on Jul 28, 2011

Terrific Info - Thanks

2:38AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

Good info, thanks.

6:47AM PDT on Jun 28, 2011

Thx for the info. Useful!

7:15AM PDT on Jun 26, 2011

Thanks for tips!

5:50AM PDT on Jun 24, 2011

Practicing medicine.....that's exactly what it is.

12:54PM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

thank you

11:52AM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

also consider to say a prayer from your heart e.g “Pray for a peaceful and contented mind in all circumstances.”

- a lovingly said mantra silently from the heart continuosly may help get your mind in a better space a tiny bit (bit by bit) too.

even saying "the names of Christ, Allah or Buddha" lovingly repeatedly constantly silently from the heart may help your mind a bit

more (not the only) ideas on mantras here:

or at least you can also try to set your intention before that any medical procedure goes really well. May help a bit - clearly not the only thing to do, but some extra ideas that are free.

10:07AM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

I'll keep these in mind. I once had a doctor prescribe me the wrong medication because he DIDN'T BELIEVE that I was having pain in my kidney and insisted that I had a bladder infection. Thankfully, it was only a stone, and not an actual kidney infection, or his mistake could have cost me my life.

3:35AM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

Really scary...

8:34AM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

I can't help feeling anxious for my health whenever I go inside a hospital, to visit friends or relatives, I mean... Scary places!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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