In Florida, children visit hospitals, clinics, and doctors throughout the summer. While health care professionals are in the business of healing, however, medical errors are a leading cause of death among all age groups. According to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, rates of medical errors injuring children were comparable to error rates for adults. The major difference was that the rate for possible adverse drug events was three times higher in children.
Adverse drug effects, misdiagnoses, and other medical errors can cause serious personal injury, including neurological damage and permanent disability. To keep your child safe and to prevent medical malpractice suits later, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) suggests that parents use the following tips each time medical care is required:
1) Stay involved. AHRQ has found that the largest risk for medical errors among children is often parent involvement. When physicians and other health care workers do not communicate well with parents, that makes it harder for parents to make informed decisions. Parents who stay involved in every decision made about their child’s care and who ask lots of questions greatly reduce the possibility of medical error.
2) Share all information – again and again. According to the AHRQ, parents should share a child’s medical history, allergies, and weight with every health care worker the child receives care from. It is not enough to assume the physician will read the chart. To prevent medical interaction, the AHRQ suggests that parents bring along all the medication a child currently uses in a bag to every appointment or hospital visit. Parents should always clarify that any new medication given will not interact with current medication.
3) Be vigilant about allergies. Having your child wear a medical bracelet outlining allergies is important. Reminding health care workers about allergies is also a good idea.
4) Be careful about drug errors. If you cannot read the doctor’s handwriting on your child’s prescription, your pharmacist may face the same problem. Do not be shy about asking the doctor to rewrite the prescription, printing the name of the medication. When picking up the medication at the pharmacy, ask the pharmacist to double-check that the medication you are getting is the medication that has actually been prescribed. The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences reported that 88% of medicine errors involved the wrong medication or dose, so being vigilant is important.
5) Ask questions in terms you can understand. Medical terms and medicine names can be hard to understand, so it’s important for parents to clarify what treatments and medicines are being used for, what any side effects are and what needs to be done to ensure that treatment or medicines can be as safe as possible.
6) Where possible, have your child treated by a doctor who has treated similar illnesses or injuries in the past. The more your doctor is familiar with a procedure, condition, or medication, the less risk there is for error.
7) Ensure that everyone caring for your child directly to wash their hands before examining your child. Clinics, doctor’s offices, and hospitals all are sites where infections can spread. Studies show that workers do not always wash their hands often enough to prevent the spread of illness, so do not be shy about telling professionals to wash up. It is much easier to speak up than to have to launch a medical malpractice suit down the line.