Citing the need for greater awareness and more transparency to lessen human error in health care, researchers point to ways that patients themselves can help reduce medical errors. Currently, medical errors come after heart disease and cancer as the third leading cause of death in the United States. Over 250,000 Americans die each year because of surgical errors and medication mistakes. While professionals work to implement practices to improve this problem, there are things you can do to prevent a devastating medical mistake that affects the rest of your life.

Be a member of your medical team

Patients often rely on and implicitly trust their health care providers, but you are one of the most important advocates for your own care in the system. Always be involved in decisions about your care, the medications you take and the procedures necessary to treat any condition. Be active and ask as many questions as possible to make yourself feel comfortable about any changes in your treatment.

Be thorough and open about your history

When you visit a new physician, be completely transparent about any surgeries you have had, the conditions you have dealt with or medications you have taken. When doctors are not aware of what you are managing, they may make errors that may have terrible results for you. If you have concerns or questions about something in your medical history, always discuss it with your doctor.

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Take backup to your appointment

Any time you have an appointment that will result in a significant change in your life, take another family member or friend with you. If you are facing a serious diagnosis or something you are nervous about, it may be difficult to focus on the directions the doctor is giving you, and you may leave out vital information. Your backup can take notes and ensure that you and your doctor are on the same page.

Keep a list of medications

Always keep with you a list of medications you are taking wherever you go. When you are asked to provide that information, it is easy to forget something important, and the wrong drug interaction can have deadly consequences. Include any over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs or herbal supplements or vitamins you take each day.

When the unthinkable happens

If you or someone you love has been injured or even died from a medical error, we encourage you to consult with an attorney immediately to discuss any questions or concerns you have. Despite your best efforts, these occurrences are not always within your control, and your rights should always be protected.