Protect Your Child From Medical Errors

20 preventative tips for parents.

from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

10. If you have a choice, choose a hospital at which many children have the procedure or surgery your child needs. Research shows that patients tend to have better results when they are treated in hospitals that have a great deal of experience with their condition. Find out how many of the procedures have been performed at the hospital. While your child is in the hospital, make sure he or she is always wearing an identification bracelet.

11. If your child is in the hospital, ask all health care workers who have direct contact with your child whether they have washed their hands. Handwashing is an important way to prevent the spread of infections in hospitals. Yet, it is not done regularly or thoroughly enough. A study found that when patients checked whether health care workers washed their hands, the workers washed their hands more often and used more soap.

12. When your child is being discharged from the hospital, ask his or her doctor to explain the treatment plan you will use at home. This includes learning about your child’s medicines and finding out when he or she can get back to regular activities. Research shows that at discharge time, doctors think people understand more than they really do about what they should or should not do when they return home.

13. If your child is having surgery, make sure that you, your child’s doctor, and the surgeon all agree and are clear on exactly what will be done. Doing surgery at the wrong site (for example, operating on the left knee instead of the right) is rare — but even once is too often. The good news is that wrong-site surgery is 100 percent preventable. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons urges its members to sign their initials directly on the site to be operated on before the surgery.

14. Speak up if you have questions or concerns. You have a right to question anyone who is involved with your child’s care.

15. Make sure that you know who (such as your child’s pediatrician) is in charge of his or her care. This is especially important if your child has many health problems or is in a hospital.

16. Make sure that all health professionals involved in your child’s care have important health information about him or her. Do not assume that everyone knows everything they need to. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

17. Ask a family member or friend to be there with you and to be your advocate. Choose someone who can help get things done and speak up for you if you can’t.

18. Ask why each test or procedure is being done. It is a good idea to find out why a test or treatment is needed and how it can help. Your child could be better off without it.

19. If your child has a test, ask when the results will be available. If you don’t hear from the doctor or the lab, call to ask about the test results.

20. Learn about your child’s condition and treatments by asking the doctor and nurse and by using other reliable sources.