How can you protect yourself from emergency room errors?

Ending up in a hospital's emergency room is never a great experience -- but there's an extra layer of stress added on top of the situation because you're forced into getting your care from an unfamiliar doctor. On top of that, emergency room doctors are often less-experienced than those in private practice -- and may be running on fumes in the middle of a long shift on the floor.

All of those factors can lead to medical mistakes, including a missed or incorrect diagnosis. According to reports, around 100,000 people die in the United States each year due to preventable hospital errors. How do you avoid being one of them? Follow these tips:

Take a friend or relative with you to the hospital

You can't be your own best advocate and might make mistakes when you're ill or in pain. A friend or relative who knows your medical history and who is willing to watch over you as you receive care can be an invaluable asset in the emergency room.

Take your medications with you and a list of your medical conditions

It's wise to be prepared for emergencies. Have a list of your medications, dosages and the reasons you take them -- along with a list of any significant medical information that you want to make certain that doctors know -- ready and in your wallet or purse. If possible, take your actual medication bottles with you to the ER. That's the safest way to avoid dangerous drug interactions.

Insist on sanitary procedures

Infections are a constant problem in hospitals. Despite the fact that it only takes a few seconds, doctors and nurses often forget to wash their hands before treating each patient. Smile and politely remind anyone who doesn't use hand sanitizer or soap before touching you that it's standard procedure.

Do not assume that your doctor knows best

Feel free to question the basis of a diagnosis. If you aren't sure that your care is correct, you have nothing to lose by speaking up.

Ultimately, if you're worried about an incorrect medical diagnosis or think the ER may have missed something, don't hesitate to get a second opinion. The life you save may be your own.

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