4 Ways to Avoid Serious Medical Mistakes

Posted on October 30, 2011 by


Photo: Dan Saelinger
Heart disease and cancer are the  two leading causes of death in the United States. Number three? Medical  mistakes. A staggering 500,000 Americans die each year due to preventable  errors, according to estimates by pharmacologist Joe Graedon and medical  anthropologist Teresa Graedon, PhD. In their new book, Top Screwups Doctors  Make and How to Avoid Them, the Graedons expose the sources of physician  error. We asked them to diagnose four common flubs—and prescribe the cure.

Lost Lab Results

A 2009 study of more than 5,000 patients at 23  facilities found that about one in 14 patients with abnormal lab results isn’t  told about them. As a result, serious conditions go unchecked.

When it comes to test results, no news isn’t  necessarily good news, Joe says. Find out when you should expect to hear from  your doctor, and if you don’t hear by then, call.


Physicians take what you tell them and look for the  most obvious explanation. As often as 15 percent of the time, they’re wrong,  according to a study by researchers in Chicago, Boston, and San Diego.  Patient-safety experts estimate that misdiagnoses lead to as many as 100,000  deaths in the United States annually.

Protect  yourself from mistakes by asking questions: “Do any of my symptoms not fit the  diagnosis?” “What else could it be?” “How confident are you?” If you fear  something’s been overlooked, say, “I’m not sure I mentioned all my concerns. Can  you tell me what you heard?”

Careless Prescribing

We’ve all seen those drug ads with their long  lists of side effects. How do doctors keep track of it all? They often don’t.  What’s more, many medicines have adverse interactions with other drugs; each  year at least 1.5 million Americans are seriously harmed by conflicting  prescriptions, like the antibiotic Bactrim and blood pressure pill Vasotec, a  combination that can cause dangerously high levels of potassium.

Be sure to inquire about side effects, and provide your doctor  with a list of all the medicines, vitamins, and supplements you take regularly.

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/health/How-to-Avoid-Medical-Mistakes-Lost-Lab-Results-Avoid-Misdiagnosis#ixzz1cHexMXDA

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