Basic Tips To Help Avoid Medical Mistakes

But errors also occur due to communication problems between doctors * and patients. These tips tell you what you can do to get safer care.

What you can do to stay safe

The best way to help avoid mistakes is to become an active member of your healthcare team. That means participating in all decisions about your health care. Research indicates that patients who are more involved in their care tend to get better results.


  1. Make sure all of your doctors are informed of every medication you are taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as dietary supplements such as vitamins and herbal products.
  2. Make sure your doctor is aware of any allergies or adverse drug reactions you have had. This can help you avoid getting medicine that could harm you.
  3. When your doctor writes you a prescription, make sure you can read it. If you don’t understand your doctor’s handwriting, your pharmacist probably won’t.
  4. When you pick up your medicine at the pharmacy, ask: Is this the medicine my doctor prescribed?
  5. If you have questions about the directions on the medicine label, ask. The instructions on the package can be difficult to understand. For example, ask if “four times a day” means taking one dose every six consecutive hours or only during the hours you are normally awake.
  6. Ask your pharmacist which device can best measure your liquid medicine. For example, many people use homemade teaspoons, which often do not equal a teaspoon of liquid. Special devices, such as marked syringes, help measure the correct dose.
  7. If you know what can happen, you will be better prepared if it happens or if there is something unforeseen.