10 Tips for Improving Your Own Patient Safety

March 8-14 2020 is Patient Safety Awareness Week, and it encourages efforts to improve the safety of healthcare patients. The Heekin Clinic strives to make patient safety a priority, and has countless steps in place to ensure the best outcome possible. Furthermore, the St. Vincent’s Orthopedic Center of Excellence has also been designed with measures in place to improve patient safety.

There are also many ways that you as the patient can take an active role in improving your patient safety and reducing the risk of medical errors. The following 10 tips can specifically be applied in the case of a orthopedic surgery patients.


1. Make sure all of your doctors know what medications you are taking.

Keep a list of all the medications you are taking and make sure every doctor you see knows these medications and has them in your health file. This is important if they need to prescribe another medication and need to avoid further complications.

2. Ask questions about your medication to be sure you understand why they are prescribed.

When your doctor prescribes you a new medication ask questions so you know what it is and how it will work. You should understand expectations for each medications and how it will affect you.

3. Ask for possible side effects of your medication in writing. 

Medications can have side effects, and it can improve your own patient safety to have the possible side effects in writing. You may feel symptoms or changes occur weeks after starting the new medication, and have a written document of the side effects can help you recognize these changes.

4. If you are having surgery, make sure you and the doctor agree on exactly what will be done.

Discuss the procedure with your surgeon so that you have a clear understanding of what will take place. Similarly, your surgeon should understand your expectations of the surgery and educate you appropriately on the procedure.

5. If possible, choose a hospital where many patients have had the procedure, and has a high quality standard of care. 

Experience makes a difference when in comes to hospital care, so choosing a facility that commonly cares for patients of the specific procedure can reduce the risk for medical errors.

6. Make sure all of your doctors have your health information.

Whether you are seeing your primary care physician, orthopedic surgeon, or rheumatologist, every doctors who cares for you should have all your health information. Never withhold information, even if you don’t think it pertains to a specific healthcare professional. A clear knowledge of your complete health profile will improve your doctor’s ability to make the right decision for your health.

7. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask if a health care worker has washed their hands or will use gloves. 

Clean hands and the use of gloves help spread infections in the healthcare setting. When you voice concerns for patient safety you can help reduce your risk of infection.

8. Ask a friend or family member to go to an appointment with you.

It is easy to forget information, especially when you are recovering from a surgery. By taking a friend or family member to your doctors appointment with you, they can better understand the procedure and give better follow up care.

9. Have someone, such as your primary care physician, coordinate your care. 

Primary care physicians are important when coordinating care. This is especially the case with more than one health condition or when recovering from surgery.

10. Speak up if you have questions or concerns. 

Never be afraid to ask a question of voice a concern. Not only does it help you fully understand your healthcare plan but it holds healthcare professionals accountable. Patient safety is important, and you should be an active participant.


The 10 tips for improving your own patient safety was compiled from “20 Tips To Help Prevent Medical Errors: Patient Fact Sheet.” Content last reviewed August 2018. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

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