There’s a topic in healthcare that is not talked about often as it opens up a whole can of worms and it gets doctors, nurses and some of the overseeing bodies somewhat uncomfortable – Medical Errors.

How Often Do Medical Errors Happen In Canada?

They do happen. The question of the extent to which they happen is somewhat debated. The most recent statistic is that there are over 100,000 medical errors that happen each year in the U. S.. In Canada, it’s said that the number is closer to 30,000. Medical errors and hospital-acquired infections are said to be the 3rd leading cause of death each year for Canadians.

To make matters worse, our system in Canada for grading and making hospitals accountable is far less transparent than the numerous systems available in the U.S., according to a Huffington Post article that appeared in 2016.

But medical errors can happen anywhere: Hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, pharmacies, and patients’ homes. Errors can involve medicines, surgery, diagnosis, equipment, or lab reports. Errors in business cost money. Errors in healthcare cost lives.

Rather than politicizing the issue, our preference here at The Health Insider is to assist the Canadian health consumer with options, approaches and helpful resources given the realities of an imperfect healthcare system. Besides, does a perfect system really exist anywhere?

6 Tips To Mitigate Medical Errors

1. Know your medications and keep a current list handy at all times. Make sure that all of your doctors are also aware. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines and dietary / naturopathic supplements, vitamins and herbs. Also:

  • Understand the possible side effects of new medications
  • Ask if a new medication is safe to take with the others as well as with your naturopathic supplements, if you take any.

2. Hospital Admissions

  • Bring your comprehensive Medical Record when going to the hospital. If you do not have your records, start here with our My Health Matters health overview form.
  • Ask each care worker to wash their hands if they haven’t already
  • Make sure you review your prescriptions at the hospital to ensure that they’re all accounted for.
  • When being discharged, ask the doctor to review the treatment plan to be followed at home

3. Surgeries

  • Make sure that your doctor and surgeon are on the same page with respect to what is going to be taking place. Surgery on the left knee is different from surgery on the right knee.
  • Given the choice, choose a hospital where this type of surgery is often done.
  • Ask for a copy of the surgeon’s Operative Notes.

4. Have an advocate – Having a loved one or good friend advocate on your behalf is just smart. Depending on the medical issue, you may not be in a state to advocate on your own behalf. Make sure that your advocate is up to speed on your meds, your issues and everything else they need to know. If possible, ask them to be there for the important reviews with doctors, nurses, etc.

5. Try to understand the nature of the tests – Ask about the reason for a test and what they hope to discover from it. More tests are not always better.

6. Get copies of your records – In an imperfect healthcare system, it’s wise to be privy to all documents concerning you and your health. Understanding everything in the record is not likely to happen without a medical degree. However, having access to everything and being able to present it to another doctor, for example, when you want a second opinion on a matter, could mean a world of difference.

Unfortunately, even with the advancement of technology and digital data, we still are not in a country that has true interoperability of medical record systems. There are silos of information everywhere. Only one person can take charge of that situation to ensure that the information is brought together in one place, and that’s you.

Your healthcare is not an area for passivity. At the end of the day, nobody cares about you like you do. Get involved. Take care. Be well.

  1. Fill out My Health Matters Form to prepare for health emergencies
  2. Get copies of your Medical Records from all your health providers, and keep them safe and accessible
  3. Hospitalization – bring your Medical Records and/or your completed My Health Matters Form
  4. Review your surgical plan and discuss with your surgeon
  5. Have an advocate with you when possible
  6. Try to understand the nature of requisitioned tests
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