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Member Rights and

Preventing Medical Mistakes and Member Rights and Responsibilities

An influential report from the Institute of Medicine estimates that up to 98,000 Americans die every year from medical mistakes in hospitals alone. That’s about 3,230 preventable deaths in the FEHB Program a year. While death is the most tragic outcome, medical mistakes cause other problems such as permanent disabilities, extended hospital stays, longer recoveries, and even additional treatments. Your provider has the responsibility to provide you with complete information concerning your diagnosis, evaluation, treatment and prognosis. Additionally, providers should allow your participation in decisions involving your health care. By asking questions, learning more and understanding your risks, you can improve the safety and understand your rights and responsibilities of your own health care, and that of your family members. Take these simple steps:

  1. Ask questions if you have doubts or concerns.
    • Ask questions and make sure you understand the answers.
    • Choose a doctor with whom you feel comfortable talking.
    • Take a relative or friend with you to help you ask questions and understand answers.
    • Provide complete and accurate information to the best of your ability.
    • Inform the provider about any living will, medical power of attorney or other directive that could affect care.
    • Treat all health care providers respectfully.
    • Follow the treatment plan prescribed by your health care provider.
  2. Keep and bring a list of all the medicines you take.
    • Bring the actual medicines or give your doctor and pharmacist a list of all the medicines and dosage that you take, including non-prescription (over-the-counter) medicines and nutritional supplements.
    • Tell your doctor and pharmacist about any drug, food, and other allergies you have, such as latex.
    • Ask about any risks or side effects of the medication and what to avoid while taking it. Be sure to write down what your doctor or pharmacist says.
    • Make sure your medicine is what the doctor ordered. Ask the pharmacist about your medicine if it looks different than you expected.
    • Read the label and patient package insert when you get your medicine, including all warnings and instructions.
    • Know how to use your medicine. Especially note the times and conditions when your medicine should and should not be taken.
    • Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.
  3. Get the results of any test or procedure.
    • Ask when and how you will get the results of tests or procedures.
    • Don’t assume the results are fine if you do not get them when expected, be it in person, by phone, or by mail.
    • Call your doctor and ask for your results.
    • Ask what the results mean for your care.
  4. Talk to your doctor about which hospital is best for your health needs.
    • Ask your doctor about which hospital has the best care and results for your condition if you have more than one hospital to choose from to get the health care you need.
    • Be sure you understand the instructions you get about follow-up care when you leave the hospital.
  5. Make sure you understand what will happen if you need surgery.
    • Make sure you, your doctor, and your surgeon all agree on exactly what will be done during the operation.
    • Ask your doctor, “Who will manage my care when I am in the hospital?”
      Ask your surgeon “Exactly what will you be doing?”
      “About how long will it take?”
      “What will happen after surgery?”
      “How can I expect to feel during recovery?”

Tell the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurses about any allergies, bad reactions to anesthesia, and any medications or nutritional supplements you are taking.

Patient Safety Links

  • The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality makes available a wide-ranging list of topics not only to inform consumers about patient safety but to help choose quality health care providers and improve the quality of care you receive.
  • The National Patient Safety Foundation has information on how to ensure safer health care for you and your family.
  • The National Council on Patient Information and Education is dedicated to improving communication about the safe, appropriate use of medicines.
  • The Leapfrog Group is active in promoting safe practices in hospital care.
  • The American Health Quality Association represents organizations and health care professionals working to improve patient safety.