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Patient mix-ups could be harmful, so speak up

When you go to a medical office or the hospital, your expectation is to be treated with respect and skill. You worry about the medical providers' ability to treat you, but one thing you may not be as worried about is something as simple as knowing who you are. After all, the paperwork is right in front of your provider.

Unfortunately, medical mistakes do happen as a result of mixing up patients or having incorrect patient information. Normally, patients review their basic informational charts every few visits, if not every visit. They may go over the medications they're taking and the illnesses they've had treated.

That isn't always enough to prevent errors, though. For example, if you sit down with a nurse to go over your patient information and medications aren't lining up, they might start to overwrite the file and correct it. If the nurse, or you, don't notice that the patient name information is incorrect (or that the chart is for someone with the same name but different age or birth date), then that could cause serious problems. Even if it doesn't affect you directly, it could affect the other patient.

What can you do to make sure errors don't affect you or other patients?

When it comes to mistakes of identity, the biggest issue is that patients aren't always looking at what the provider has in front of them. For example, if you are being asked about medications, the likelihood is that you're not seeing the screen of the provider's computer or looking directly at what they're reading. If there seem to be discrepancies, it's okay to ask to look at that information to check that it is the right patient.

Some facilities do have patients with the same birth dates, same names or similar names. In those cases, you should assert your right to review your chart each time, so the right information is being provided to you and being recorded about you. If the provider calls you by the wrong name, gives you the wrong birth date or provides other incorrect information, don't shy away from correcting them. Correcting them could be the only opportunity you have to prevent a potentially dangerous situation involving a patient mix-up.

Your provider shouldn't make mistakes, but they do happen. If you speak up when you see errors taking place or when something seems wrong, you may be able to prevent accidents and injuries.

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