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Every Minute, Five People Die From This

September 17 marked the first-ever World Patient Safety Day, launch by the World Health Organization in hopes of educating the public on the growing issue of incorrect medical treatment. According to a recent report, 2.6 million people in middle- and low-income countries die each year due to medical errors. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “No one should be harmed while receiving health care. And yet globally, at least five patients die every minute because of unsafe care.”

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The report, released by WHO, shows that 4 in 10 patients experience medical harm while in primary care and outpatient treatment. Errors regarding diagnosis, prescription and medication use are listed as the most common. According to the report, the error of prescribing the wrong medication costs a whopping $42 billion each year, and surgical procedures deemed unsafe result in the deaths of 1 million people every year. WHO points out that significant financial savings would result from improving patient safety.

So how can you protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to medical harm? Once you're hospitalized, you're immediately at risk for medical errors, so one of the best safeguards is to have someone there with you.

It's important to have a personal advocate present to ask questions and take notes. For every medication given in the hospital, ask questions such as: "What is this medication? What is it for? What's the dose?" Most people, doctors and nurses included, are more apt to go through that extra step of due diligence to make sure they're getting it right if they know they'll be questioned about it.

Research shows nearly 1 in 5 elderly patients are injured by medical care in the U.S, and those experiencing medical injury have nearly double the death rate compared to those who receive proper treatment.  The World Health Organization used some of their principles to develop its own official checklist, which can be downloaded for free. If a loved one is in the hospital, print it out and bring it with you, as this can help you protect them from preventable errors in care.