Patient Advocates Can Help Decrease Medical Errors

The definition of an “error” is “a mistake; the state or condition of being wrong in conduct or judgement.” While no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, it’s the particular environment where errors occur that can have devastating effects.

Errors made while doing your taxes can be much more benign than errors made in the hospital setting. Errors can occur in hospitals from housekeeping not putting out a “wet floor” sign to a cafeteria worker delivering the wrong food tray, to lab, nursing, x-ray, respiratory therapists, transporters, doctors, etc.


Wrong and expensive labs and tests can be ordered as well as unwanted therapies, incorrect medications and dosages as well as a diagnosis being altogether incorrect. There is also the situations that an actual error did not occur but the patient misunderstood what was going to actual occur. Has that ever happened to you? A 30 min procedure is actually an all-day procedure because you have to go through the pre procedure phase and the after phase.

One job of an independent patient advocate is to be on the lookout for potential errors or errors, hopefully before they can affect a patient. Did you know in 2016 it was estimated that 205,000 deaths occurred due to hospital medical errors? This staggering number doesn’t account for the multitude of errors that occur in which the patient survives and is quite possibly unaware.


Dealing with the subject of medical mistakes and errors are where an independent patient advocate can be an invaluable asset. An even greater asset is if your patient advocate possesses an experienced medical background due to the fact that they are more in tuned in what to look for and they notice subtle potential mishaps or errors in care. Bottom line is that hospitals will never be mistake and error free. There will always be someone dropping the ball somewhere or processes line up in an unfortunate outcome.  Having a patient advocate on your side is one of the best ways to ensure undue suffering and a safer hospital experience.

Marilyn & David Whitley