A Johns Hopkins study published in May 2016 found that almost 200,000 deaths occur annually due to medical errors in the United States. If this number is right, medical errors would be the third largest cause of death based on the rankings provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pennsylvania residents might like to know about how they can avoid being victims of these types of mistakes.

Common types of mistakes include human and system errors. When a health care provider makes an improper decision that has a negative influence on a patient, this is a human error. System errors refer to things like patient handoff issues, poor communication and problems with an electronic recording system.

Being informed could help one prevent potential errors when undergoing surgery. When treating a medical condition, a surgeon should explain procedures and their alternatives. This gives one an opportunity to ask about what to expect, possible outcomes, benefits and risks. One might also wish to know about the clinical trials or other facts that have formed a physician’s opinion regarding a procedure.

When learning about the risks of a chosen procedure, one should make sure that the possible complications are understood. A patient might ask a surgeon for additional information about a procedure like videos and reading material to best understand the process.

No one has a complete understanding of how the human body operates, so a poor outcome does not mean a physician or surgeon made a mistake with one’s care. When determining what a human error entails, this typically involves looking at how a medical professional acted and comparing it to how others would act in a similar situation. If a patient suffered harm because one surgeon acted differently to how a group of surgeons with equivalent knowledge and training would have acted, this could be medical professional negligence.