The lawyers of Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. believe that the best way to prevent medical malpractice is to be an informed patient. Janet Woodcock, M.D., head of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, actively encourages consumers to help prevent errors by being watchful about their health care. Many potential problems can be resolved before they occur just by asking the right questions or knowing what to look for. She offers the following tips to prevent medical malpractice:
- Be an active member of your health care team. Don’t be a passive patient; take part in every decision about your health care.
- Ask questions. Make sure you understand everything that affects your medical condition. Your doctor, surgeon, pharmacist, or other health care professional should be open and receptive to your questions, and should be able to provide you with answers you can understand.
- Understand your medications. Make sure your doctor, pharmacist, and surgeon know what you are taking and why. Ask about drug interactions and learn about any side effects; if you are uncomfortable with potential side effects, ask for alternative options.
- Keep a list of all medications you take. Providing this list to your physicians can significantly decrease the chance of them prescribing a medication that may have a negative interaction with other medications you are currently taking.
- Understand your surgery. Make sure you know exactly what procedure will be done, how long it will take, how long recovery will be, and what the potential risks are. Make sure your primary care physician and your surgeon are in agreement regarding the surgery.
- Seek a second opinion if necessary. Find out if there are alternatives to a particular course of treatment. If you don’t have confidence in a doctor’s diagnosis or feel rushed into making a decision, find another medical professional with whom to consult.
- Understand your rights as an HMO member. If you are a member of an HMO, read your plan documentation carefully so you fully understand what benefits you are entitled to, what treatments are covered, and what payments are expected. In most plans, you have the right to treatment from providers outside your HMO (though normally at your expense). If you are not comfortable with the level of care your HMO provides, look into other plans or supplemental insurance.