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Safety Tips: 5 Steps to Safer Health Care

1. Speak up if you have questions or concerns.

  • Choose a doctor you feel able to talk to about your health and your medical care.
  • Take a relative or close friend to your doctor visit if this will help you ask questions and understand the answers better.
  • Ask questions and insist on answers that you can understand.

2. Keep a list of all the medicines you take

  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist all the medicines you take. This includes overthe- counter medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen, vitamins, herbs, and other supplements.
  • Tell the doctor about any allergies or reactions you’ve had when taking a medicine.
  • Ask if you should avoid any food, alcohol, activities, sunlight, or exercise when taking a medicine.
  • Read the label, including warnings, when you get your medicine.
  • When you pick up your medicine, ask the pharmacist if it’s the medicine your doctor ordered.
  • Before you leave the pharmacist, make sure you know how to take the medicine.

3. Make sure you get the results of any test or procedure

  • Ask your doctor or nurse when and how you will get the results of tests or procedures.
  • If you do not get the results when expected, don’t just think that the results are fine. Call your doctor to ask for the results. Ask what the results mean for your care.

4. Talk with your doctor and health care team about your options if you need hospital care

  • If you can choose from several hospitals, ask your doctor which one has the best care and gets the best results for your condition. Many hospitals are good at treating a wide range of problems.
  • For certain tests, procedures, and surgeries (for example, heart surgery), studies show that results are often better at hospitals that do them in greater numbers.
  • Before you leave the hospital, ask about your follow-up care. Be sure you understand the instructions.

5. Make sure you understand what will happen if you need surgery

  • Make sure you, your doctor, and your surgeon agree on exactly what will be done during the operation.
  • Tell your surgeon, anesthesiologist (ANes- THEE-zee-AH-lo-jist), and nurses if you have allergies. Tell them if you’ve ever had a bad reaction to anesthesia (AN-es- THEE-zee-uh).

Questions to ask are:

  • Who will have charge of my care while I’m in the hospital?
  • How long will the surgery last?
  • What will happen after surgery?
  • How can I expect to feel during recovery?
  • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • Will I need a ride home from the hospital?
  • Will I need any prescriptions or supplies from the pharmacy?
  • Will I need home care nurses or any type of therapy at home?
  • What will my physical limits be and for how long?
  • When should I make a follow-up appointment?

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Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

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