The Drs: How To Prevent Deadly Medical Mistakes | Dr. Sanjay Gupta

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The Doctors: Ways to Prevent Deadly Medical Mistakes

Today, The Doctors invited CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta to join them for a discussion about how we can prevent our doctors from making medical mistakes. They shared the story of Richard Flagg, whose doctor removed the wrong lung during surgery, leaving him inoperable with a tumor in his remaining lung.

The Doctors: Doctor Removes Wrong Lung

The Drs: Preventing Medical Mistakes

Learn ways you can protect yourself and your family from potentially deadly medical mistakes.

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He suffered for three years before dying, but his surgeon still hasn’t admitted any wrongdoing, and is even suspected of altering medical records to cover himself. Is that where the term “doctoring” comes from? I hope not.

After eight years, the doctor received a temporary two-year suspension of his license. Dr. Gupta said it’s hard to defend this story, where obviously someone’s life was on the line over a mistake. Dr. Lisa Masterson said many hospitals now have rigorous checks and balances in place to ensure they are doing the right procedure on the right patient.

The Drs TV: Preventing Medical Mistakes

Dr. Jim Sears said his own Orthopedic Surgeon used permanent marker to remind medical staff which knee to operate on when he went under the knife. Dr. Andrew Ordon said one of his Breast Augmentation patients left notes for him in lipstick on her chest.

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While he noted that this was extreme, “you can be your own best advocate,” he said.

How To Prevent Medical Mistakes: Plan For Surgery

Dr. Travis Stork said it’s important to plan for your surgery, even in an emergency. You do have some amount of time, even in an emergency, to ensure that the medical staff knows about all your medical conditions, medications you are taking, and other vital health information that could come into play during surgery.

Dr. Lisa said it’s also important to make sure you understand your rights and options as a patient, so they can make informed decisions. She added that you can ask your doctor to go over the post-op expectations and instructions before the surgery. That way you don’t have to worry about missing or forgetting details if you’re still groggy from anesthesia after the surgery.

She also stressed the importance of following up with your doctor after surgery and not being afraid to call and ask questions about your care.

How To Prevent Medical Mistakes: Call For Lab Results

If you are sent for medical tests, don’t you want to know the results? You don’t have to let it stress you out or keep you up at night. Here’s something else to be concerned about. Dr. Travis said that 1 in 14 patients with abnormal test results never got the news.

Though tests take a certain amount of time for processing, you can call and get the results for yourself once you know they’re due to be available. Dr. Lisa said that fear can keep people from getting results, or even getting tests in the first place.

Dr. Gupta said that it’s also helpful in case you need to get a second opinion, to save you the time and hassle of unneeded tests. Dr. Travis recommended keeping your medical records with you, on a CD or flash drive, to make it easy for other doctors or specialists to see your test results.

How To Prevent Medical Mistakes: Know Your Medications

“You should know each and every medicine you’re on,” Dr. Travis said, including vitamins, supplements, and dosage. Dr. Jim Sears said a Harvard study found that if you are taking just five medications, there are 3,000 different combinations in which you could take them throughout your day. I’m already confused, and I’m not on any medication.

Dr. Travis said that Smartphones can help you stay on top of your medications. He said you can take pictures of your medicine labels, and even the pills themselves. You could also use a note taking app to make a list of your regular medicines and dosages. Just make sure to keep it up to date so your healthcare team has the most accurate information.

Dr. Gupta said that too many people put their own health on the back burner, but taking small steps can have a huge impact if you wind up at the hospital.

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