By Danielle Dellorto
Hospitals and doctors make mistakes. It's something we don't like to think about, but it happens. Some scary examples I've come across: Minnesota doctors removed the healthy kidney of a cancer patient while leaving the diseased one behind; California doctors removed the appendix of the wrong patient; one of the most experienced surgeons in a Boston, Massachusetts, hospital operated on the wrong side of a patient. All of these mistakes happened within the past couple of years.
Rest assured, if you are the patient, you can help avoid such medical errors. Start by checking out your doctor and hospital. There are several websites that rank hospitals and physicians. Try HealthGrades.com or LeapFrogGroup.org. Tell the nurses and doctors who you are and why you're having surgery. You might feel a little silly, but giving your name, date of birth and for example, which hip you're having replaced – it bears repeating. Make sure your doctor – not someone else – initials your surgery site, then confirm that site with your physician right before your procedure. Finally, train someone to be your advocate. You're likely to be anxious and a little out of it, so be sure that friend or family member knows these important tips too.
For more tips on how to prevent medical errors, check out CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohenâ€™s Empowered Patient column.