Skip to Content
Home > Wellness Resources > Health Library > Prevent Medical Errors
Medical errors are mistakes in
health care that could have been prevented. They can occur in hospitals,
clinics, surgery centers, doctors' offices, nursing homes, pharmacies, and your
home. Errors can involve medicines, surgery, diagnosis, home treatment, equipment, or lab
reports. They are often caused by a lack of good communication. Medical errors
may result in injury or death.
Some examples of medical errors
thing you can do to prevent medical errors is to be involved in your health
care. Learn and know about your health problem, medicine, and treatment as best
you can and take part in making all decisions about your care. Talk to everyone
who is involved in your health care. This includes your doctors, other health
professionals, family, and friends.
Before you agree to a
medicine, treatment plan, surgery, or lifestyle change, such as changing what
you eat, be sure you understand it. Always ask if you are not clear on what, how, or why.
The following steps can help you prevent
There are places you can check to see how your health care
is rated. Here are a few of them:
How to use medicines
can be confusing, especially if you are using a lot of medicines. You need to
keep track of when and how to take them, and prescriptions and labels are not
always easy to understand. So it's easy for an error with medicine to
This form(What is a PDF document?) can help you know what to ask about a new medicine.
For more information, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
medical errors happen in the hospital. For example,
you may receive the wrong meal or medicine. Here are some things you can ask to
Before going to a hospital for a surgery or procedure, ask
how often the procedure is done. Research shows that you likely will have better results
when you go to a hospital that has a lot of experience with a health problem or
Before you have
surgery, be sure that you and all your doctors know what is going to happen.
Be sure to tell your doctors:
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is
one agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. AHRQ
supports research initiatives that seek to improve the quality of health care
in America. AHRQ's mission is to improve the quality, safety, efficiency,
effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of health care for all Americans. The website provides evidence-based information to help people make decisions about
health care services.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2011). 20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors. Patient Fact Sheet (AHRQ Publication No. 11-0089). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Also available online: http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/20tips.pdf.
Other Works Consulted
Desai SP, Kachalia A (2012). Quality of care: Performance measurement and quality improvement in clinical practice. In EG Nabel, ed., ACP Medicine, section 1, chap. 4. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
HealthGrades (2012). The Ninth Annual HealthGrades Patient Safety and Satisfaction Report. Denver: HealthGrades. Available online: https://www.cpmhealthgrades.com/index.cfm/portfolio/research-studies.
Sachdeva RC (2011). Quality and safety in health care for children. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., online chap. 2. Philadelphia: Saunders. Available online: http://www.expertconsult.com.
Steinman MA, Hanlon JT (2010). Managing medications in clinically complex elders: "There's got to be a happy medium." JAMA, 304(14): 1592–1601.
Current as of:
December 18, 2012
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Learn how to prevent heart disease and maintain a healthy heart.
Tips, Videos & More »