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How your doctor-patient relationship can reduce the risk of errors

In our last post, we discussed the idea that the majority of medical errors that harm patients are caused by miscommunication. Listening is a vitally important skill, yet one that doctors often fail to utilize.

So what can you do to protect yourself from medical negligence if you feel that you haven’t been heard and understood by hospital staff? According to a recent study from Consumer Reports, patients need to demand a certain level of respect from their doctors and set the expectation that they are partners in their own medical care.

The Consumer Reports study showed that a significant number of patients felt they sometimes or rarely received respect from hospital staff. Those who felt that they were “rarely” respected were 2.5 times more likely to be victims of a preventable medical error.

Other respondents felt that they were not included in the decision-making process. About 33 percent of respondents felt that doctors and nurses did not always honor their wishes about treatment. The same percentage said that hospital staff did not always listen without interrupting them when they spoke.

Hospitals are busy places, and most medical professionals are not trying to be rude or disrespectful. Nonetheless, the old adage that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” seems to be true for hospital patients. The more you can advocate for yourself and what you need, the more likely you are to be treated with respect.

Remember that doctors are the experts in medicine, but you are the person who best understands your own body – not to mention the one who has to live with the outcomes of medical treatment. Expecting respect and voicing those expectations may be the best way to protect yourself from preventable medical errors.

Source: Forbes, “Consumer Reports Study: Demanding Respect From Doctors May Save Your Life,” Robert J. Szczerba, Jan. 19, 2015

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Breslin and Breslin, PA, Donald A. Caminiti, Esq., was one of six law firms selected by the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey to act as special counsel to represent it in its lawsuit against the tobacco industry to recover Medicaid and other health related costs incurred by the state resulting from tobacco related illnesses.