Patient Safety Awareness Week — which will occur March 2nd to 8th this year —is an annual education and awareness campaign led by the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF).

A central focus of this year’s campaign, Navigate Your Health…Safely, is diagnostic error — an area that has been increasingly identified as a potential risk for patient safety.  What can patients do to ensure an accurate diagnosis? Be aware and get involved in your care.

"Don’t be afraid to ask how confident your doctor feels about the diagnosis or what else may be the cause of your symptoms."

1. Communicate

When seeking medical care, be sure to tell your medical team your complete history and full details about any symptoms you are experiencing. Likewise, be sure to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask how confident they feel about the diagnosis or what else may be the cause of your symptoms. Ask about getting additional opinions to confirm your diagnosis, especially if your symptoms persist.

2. Study up

Become familiar with symptoms of any chronic conditions you have, as well as the possible side effects of medicines that you take. You’ll be better prepared to report any changes in your status or symptoms.

3. Follow recommended guidelines

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force sets recommendations for routine screening tests. Visit their website to find out which tests are most appropriate for you, your children, or other loved ones.

4. Keep good records

Although many hospitals and physician practices are using electronic health records, it is good practice to keep your own record in case you need emergency care or treatment at a facility other than your regular hospital. Keep track of the medications you take, illnesses you’ve been treated for and any hospitalizations or surgeries.

5. Follow up

If you do not receive results of a lab or imaging test, don’t assume everything is okay. Ask your provider in advance how he or she will tell you the results and when. Contact them if the information is not provided as expected. Likewise, tell your care team if for any reason you cannot follow through with any part of your treatment plan.