Preventing Medical Errors

NCH Healthcare System Patient Information

AHRQ Consumers & Patients
AHRQ Home Page
Department of Health and Human Services 

Patient Fact Sheet - Five Steps to Safer Health Care  

Patient safety is one of the Nation's most pressing health care challenges. A 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine estimates that as many as 44,000 to 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals each year as the result of lapses in patient safety.

This fact sheet tells what you can do to get safer health care. It was developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association.

 5 Steps to Safer Healthcare

1. Ask questions if you have doubts or concerns. Ask questions and make sure you understand the answers. Choose a doctor you feel comfortable talking to. Take a relative or friend with you to help you ask questions and understand the answers.

2. Keep and bring a list of ALL the medicines you take. Give your doctor and pharmacist a list of all the medicines that you take, including non-prescription medicines. Tell them about any drug allergies you have. Ask about side effects and what to avoid while taking the medicine. Read the label when you get your medicine, including all warnings. Make sure your medicine is what the doctor ordered and know how to use it. Ask the pharmacist about your medicine if it looks different than you expected.

3. Get the results of any test of procedure. Ask when and how you will get the results of tests or procedures. Don't assume the results are fine if you do not get them when expected, be it in person, by phone, or by mail. Call your doctor and ask for your results. Ask what the results mean for your care.

4. Talk to your doctor about which hospital is best for your health needs. Ask your doctor about which hospital has the best care and results for your condition if you have more than one hospital to choose from. Be sure you understand the instructions you get about follow-up care when you leave the hospital.

5. Make sure you understand what will happen if you need surgery. Make sure you, your doctor, and your surgeon all agree on exactly what will be done during the operation. Ask your doctor, "Who will manage my care when I am in the hospital?" Ask your surgeon:

  • Exactly what will you be doing?
  • About how long will it take?
  • What will happen after the surgery?
  • How can I expect to feel during recovery?

Tell the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurses about any allergies, bad reaction to anesthesia, and any medications you are taking.

More Information

Select for more information about medical errors. A Federal report on medical errors can be accessed online, and print copies (Publication No. OM 00-0004) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse: phone, 1-800-358-9295 (outside the United States, please call 410-381-3150) or Email at

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
American Hospital Association
American Medical Association

AHRQ Publication No. 03-M007
Current as of July 2003

Internet Citation:

Five Steps to Safer Health Care. Patient Fact Sheet. July 2003. AHRQ Publication No 03-M007. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

Call Access Healthline - (239) 624-1999 if you need a Physician.

Related Content

Send a Photo Greeting Card

Wellness & Nutrition


Blood Center News & Events

Our Vision, Mission & Values

Concierge Medicine Enrollment

Women's Health

Helpful Links

Interactive Health Tools

Admitting Information

Orthopaedic Services

Concierge Medicine Helpful Lin...

MyNCH Health Portal

Guidelines for Donating Blood

Patient Rights and & Responsib...

The Future Continues (1990's )

Our Procedures


Privacy Notice

da Vinci Surgical System at NC...

Access Healthline

Health E-Newsletters

Community Education: Family St...

General Surgery

The NCH Healthcare System Foun...

da Vinci Surgeons at NCH

Maternity Services

Public Safety

Recipient Stories

Prepaid OB Delivery Package Pr...


Our Surgeons

General Surgery

Physician of the Year 2011 Hon...

Spirit of Women

Email A Patient

NCH Orthopaedic Medical Team

Open Heart Surgery

Concierge Patient Benefits

Cardiac Rehab Phase II

Naples Day Surgery

Department of Pastoral Care

Day of Dance Registration

Concierge Medicine Program FAQ...

Other Surgery Options

NCH Breast Health Navigator Pr...

Nurse to Patient Ratios

Breast Health Navigator

Diagnostic Tests

Radiation Therapy

Video Content

Code Save-A-Heart

Naples Orthopaedic Surgery

Joint Replacement Procedures

NCH Cares Terms of Use

Treatments for Heart Disease

Derechos y Responsabilidades d...

More About Heart Disease

Uterine Conditions

Contact Surgery

The Brookdale Center for Healt...

Website Privacy

About da Vinci

Robotic Hysterectomy

Treatment Options

Specialty Care

Observation - "Watchful Waitin...

Patient Navigator Service

Programs and Services

Patient Experiences

Hormonal Therapy

Notes from the Mayo Clinic

Dr. Herman Spilker Mayo Summar...

da Vinci Prostatectomy

Pediatrics Links

Robert Hanson MD

Epidural Anesthesia and Consul...

da Vinci Prostatectomy Video

Rechte und Pflichten des Patie...

In the News


Droits et Responsibilities du ...

Varicose Veins


Wellness & Nutrition Package

Jesse Haven MD

Contact NCH Concierge Medicine

Cerner Smart Room Implementati...

Our Locations

Piper Building


Girls Night Out

Day of Dance

Concierge Medicine

Girls Night Out

Contact General Surgery

General Surgery

General Surgery

Concierge Medicine

Education & Outreach


Julie Southmayd MD

Wellness Centers

Adult Health Library

Concierge Home

Concierge Medicine

Family Medicine

Gastroenterology and Hepatolog...


Infectious Disease

Internal Medicine

Pay Your Bill

Pediatric Health Library

Pediatric Medicine

Physical Medicine

Physician Group Locations

Primary Care

Women's Health

Related Videos