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Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors

Medical errors are one of the nation�s leading causes of death and injury. A recent report by the Institute of Medicine estimates that as many as 44,000 to 98,000 people die each year as the result of medical errors.

Medical errors happen when something that was planned as a part of medical care doesn�t work out, or when the wrong plan was used in the first place. Medical errors can occur anywhere in the health care system. They can happen during even the most routine tasks, such as when a hospital patient on a salt-free diet is given a high-salt meal. Most errors result from a break down in today�s complex health care system. But errors also happen when doctors and their patients have problems communicating.

Virginians Improving Patient Care and Safety, a coalition of hospitals, health care professionals and health plans, is working together to make the Virginia health care system safer for patients and the public. You can help too. The single most important way you can help to prevent errors is to be an active member of your health care team. That means taking part in every decision about your health care. Research shows that patients who are more involved with their care tend to get better results. The tips below have been compiled from a variety of sources, including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.

Hospital Stays
Home Health
Other Steps
Spanish Version (translation courtesy of Carilion Health System)

Also see, 
AHRQ: Ways You Can Help Your Family Prevent Medical Errors! 
AHRQ: Como proteger a usted y a su familia de los errores m�dicos
AHRQ: 20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors in Children

More Brochures 
National Patient Safety Foundation
Leapfrog Group
JCAHO: Speak Up: Help Prevent Errors in Your Care


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