Despite the best intentions, mistakes and errors happen in hospitals every day, killing more than 400,000 people each year.

Choosing a safer hospital can increase your likelihood of a healthier, less complicated, hospital stay.

Tools like the Hospital Safety Score, the Federal Government’s Hospital Compare tool and your health plan’s website provide ratings of hospitals. These can be used to find hospitals near you that have lower infection rates and better processes in place to prevent errors.

It’s important to consider these factors when choosing a hospital, whether for an elective surgery or delivering a baby. Even if you think you may never need a hospital, researching local facilities now will help you be prepared in the event of an emergency.

Regardless of the hospital you choose, there are important steps that every patient should take to decrease the chances of harm in the hospital.

1. Keep a support team

Try to have a family member or friend with you as much as possible, watching the care you get, asking questions and advocating for you.

2. Error-proof

Ask your doctor what policies and procedures the hospital has in place to prevent errors. Do they use electronic prescription ordering and barcodes to decrease the risk of medication errors? Do they use checklists for complex and potentially hazardous procedures? Do they have doctors specially trained to care for the sickest patients?

3. Sanitary confinement

Make sure everyone entering your hospital room washes their hands. Hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of harmful or potentially deadly infections, so be sure to speak up if you notice a doctor, nurse, therapist or other care provider fail to wash his or her hands before treating you.

4. Mind your meds

Medication errors are the most common mistake that happens in the hospital. Make sure you tell your providers about all medications you were taking before you came to the hospital so they don’t prescribe another drug that might cause a harmful interaction. Ask your nurse why each medication is being given to you, and question him or her if you notice one looks different from what you received before.

Even the best hospitals can be dangerous. By choosing the safest possible hospital and taking steps to protect yourself, you can increase your chances of a hospital stay free from harm.