According to the World Health Organization, people are statistically safer flying in an airplane or working for nuclear industries than going to the hospital. How can this be? The WHO reports that the risk of dying in an airplane accident is estimated at 1 in 3 million, but the risk of dying due to a preventable medical accident is closer to 1 in 300. (Source:

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to be either your own advocate or be an advocate for a loved one who is in the hospital. These precautions are also useful for primary doctor visits or other outpatient services. Doctors and nurses, though undoubtedly working to provide you quality care, are not infallible. Remember that you know your body best, and successful healthcare is a team effort.

Document Your Discussions

It’s important to take notes during your discussions with your healthcare provider. Many times patients will be overwhelmed with the amount of information they receive during a doctor visit. Details about treatment procedures or medication reactions can be forgotten when the appointment is over.

If your appointment is scheduled in advance come prepared with a notebook and pen. Other options include typing out notes on your phone or asking the doctor if you can record the conversation. It’s valuable to document the date of the conversation and the person with whom you spoke. As a hospital patient you will be in contact with multiple medical professionals each with their own area of expertise. Record the name of any diagnoses or medications for potential future research. Don’t be afraid to ask how something is spelled!

Bring Someone with You

Asking someone to come with you to the hospital is one of the best ways to self-advocate. Not only will you have the support of a trusted family member or friend, but you will have someone who can help you document the visit. The person you bring along can also be helpful when remembering significant information such as symptoms or dates of past procedures.

If for any reason you are no longer able to advocate for yourself, your person can provide assistance. A doctor meeting you for the first time won’t know if you are acting out of character or not. Your advocate can speak up for you if they recognize abnormal behaviors or symptoms.

Bring a List of Medications and Supplements

Medication errors are an expensive and, sometimes, deadly outcome in hospital visits. It’s extremely important that your medical team is aware of all medications and supplements you currently take. Make sure to have not only a list of all the medications and supplements, but also the correct dosages you consume. Giving your doctor accurate information can help prevent a medication reaction.

Speak up if you are uncomfortable taking a medication or are unsure why it has been prescribed. If you have had an adverse reaction to a medication in the past be sure it is listed in your medical chart. Do not assume that every doctor or nurse is aware of any allergies you may have. It is always best to check before taking a new medication or dosage level.

Call The James Law Firm

Even with your best effort, medical accidents can still occur. The James Law Firm has the experience, compassion, and knowledge needed to tackle even the most complex medical error cases. If you’re a victim of a medical error and have been injured anywhere in Iowa, don’t hesitate to call us today at 515-246-8484. We represent clients in Des Moines, Davenport/Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, and more. We will travel to help you!