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According to the Fifth Annual Patient Safety in American Hospitals Study, 238,337 medicare patients died as a result of preventable safety errors from 2004 to 2006.  The report goes on to state that preventable safety errors cost the medicare program $8.8 billion over those two years.  Patients who experienced a safety error had a 20 percent chance of dying as a result of the mistake.  The most common types of preventable medical errors were bed sores, failure to rescue, and respitory failure after surgery.  These three errors combine to make up 63.4 percent of all incidents.

Not surprisingly, the study also showed that better hospitals and better informed patients dramatically lowered the chance of medical error.  The study found that patients treated at top-performing hospitals were 43 percent less likely to experience a medical error.  Obviously, choosing a hospital that is right for the patient and the procedure is critical in preventing medical errors.  The American Academy of Family Physicians provides guidance on how patients can protect themselves from preventable errors.  Below are some tips on how to protect yourself or your loved one from a safety error.

    1.  Keep your healthcare team informed.

    2.  Ask for information about your medication in terms you can understand.

    3.  Talk to your pharmacist.

    4.  Choose a hospital with experience dealing with your particular condition.

    5.  Learn more about your condition on your own.

    6.  Take responsibility for your healthcare– Speak up, Know who’s in charge.

For more information on how you can help prevent medical safety errors and for a list of questions every person should ask about their medications, visit the American Academy of Family Physicians’ website at


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