Oops – We’ve Made a Mistake!

My test was scheduled for next week. An email arrives from my nurse practitioner with the test results:  Positive.  Only one problem – I haven’t had the test yet!

Has this happened to you – a mistake in your medical record?  Could be a simple error –  someone else’s results on your chart, the wrong medication or blood test order, incorrect charting, incorrect pre-test instructions which yield inaccurate results, etc. All of the above are generally not life threatening though seemingly insignficant errors can change the dynamics of your healthcare.  Maybe you’ll receive a treatment you don’t need or eliminate one you actually do need. Of course, some medical errors can be extremely serious. Staying involved and participating actively in your healthcare can make all the difference.

Many years ago my mother was hospitalized. Her semi-private roomate’s last name was Siegel.  My mother’s last name: Segall. You already see the problem – right?  My mother – an extremely empowered patient  – immediately requested a room change anticipating potential confusion.  Their answer: No, not necessary. You can guess what happened next – the very first blood test results were entered on the wrong chart. My mother spoke up again.  She was in a new room the next day.

Stuff happens.  Even in the most diligent of medical circumstances mistakes crop up.  Doctors, nurses, phlebotomists, pharmacists, physical therapists, etc., are smart, well trained professionals who work hard to provide the best care for their patients, but they are unfortunately as human as the rest of us.  Being an active participant in your healthcare, keeping lots of notes and asking plenty of questions helps to ensure you’re going to get the best care with the fewest errors.

What I list above are simple mistakes you can easily rectify as an proactive patient. Please do keep this in mind: If it doesn’t feel right to you – whether it’s test instructions or results, a medication (either new or a refill), a diagnosis that doesn’t make sense, or even a scheduled appointment that seems wrong – do ask about any and all of the above.  Don’t be afraid to ask again and again, if necessary, until you feel comfortable with the answer and have a true understanding of what is being said about your health.  Trust your gut. I can’t emphasize that enough. As far as I can tell you only get one body in this lifetime – wrinkles and cellulite not withstanding!  Even though I’ve written this  previously, it bears repeating:  ASK and then ASK AGAIN till you get answers that make sense to you.

My father used to say, “sometimes I’m right!”  You just might be.

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