Doctors are only human, and they are just as prone to making mistakes as anyone else. Unfortunately, when they do, it can have severe and even life-threatening ramifications for their patients. As cases involving medical malpractice and negligence have become more common, it is more important than ever that patients act as their own advocate.
The Importance of Acting as Your Own Advocate when Visiting the Doctor
When admitted to a hospital for a serious illness or injury, you may be assigned a patient advocate or representative, which is a member of the staff who will watch out for your best interests. The National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) states that an advocate should be assertive, communicating your concerns and clarifying procedures and instructions. Patient advocates play a crucial role in getting the quality care you need, while reducing the risk of medical errors.
A patient advocate is just as important when visiting your doctor’s office, as this is often where critical conditions are first diagnosed, chronic diseases and injuries are managed, and diagnostic testing, treatments, and medications are prescribed. It is also where minor medical mistakes can snowball into potentially life-threatening issues. Acting as your own patient advocate when visiting your doctors can help prevent the following:
- Rushed exams, where symptoms may be overlooked or dismissed.
- Incomplete family medical histories, which fail to alert doctors to conditions you may be at risk for.
- Incomplete medical records, which may not include previous symptoms, illnesses, and treatments you have undergone.
- Lack of coordinated care, leaving your provider unaware of treatment and medications you may be receiving from specialists or other doctors.
All of the above put you at risk for serious medical mistakes, such as misdiagnosis, testing errors, treatment delays, and dangerous drug interactions.
Tips on Advocating for Better Medical Care
Studies from John Hopkins Medicine indicate that medical mistakes and errors prove fatal for more than 250,000 people each year, ranking as the third leading cause of death in the United States. Taking the initiative to act as your own advocate when visiting your doctor can help reduce your risks.
Before visiting the doctor, you may want to clarify your options. Websites such as Health Grades provide reviews of local providers, giving you an idea of the quality of care you are likely to receive. During your visit, follow these tips:
- Make sure your medical records are correct and provide a complete family medical history.
- Give detailed descriptions of symptoms you suffer.
- Inform the doctor of any medications you are taking.
- Ask for clarification if you do not understand instructions.
- Get a second opinion if you have any doubts about a diagnosis or a recommended course of treatment.
If you suspect a medical error has had an adverse impact on your health, contact the Johnston Law Firm right away. Our Portland medical malpractice attorney can act as a strong legal advocate on your behalf, and can advise you on the best course of action in your situation. Call or contact us online today to request a free consultation.