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Can asking the right questions reduce the risk of doctor error?

People in Montana rely on their doctors to make accurate diagnoses, give sound medical advice and treat their ailments competently and professionally. When a physician recommends a test, a course of treatment or a surgical procedure, most people will accept the physician's advice. But sometimes asking the right questions can help a patient decide if the treatment or procedure is really right for them, and whether their doctor is qualified to administer or perform it.

A patient considering a test may want to make sure they understand what the test is for. If the doctor is recommending a surgical procedure, the patient should consider asking the doctor how many times he or she has performed the procedure in the past. If the doctor does not have experience with the procedure, it may be a good idea to seek a second opinion.

A patient should understand why the doctor is recommending the treatment, and whether there are any alternatives. A patient should make sure they are informed of all the potential complications of the treatment or procedure. If the doctor is recommending a prescription drug, the patient should make sure the doctor explains any possible side effects.

Asking the right questions can help a patient be better informed and understand the risks and benefits of the recommended course of action. If the procedure appears to carry a high level of risk, the patient may want to consult another doctor. If the doctor fails to advise the patient of the risks of a procedure, the patient may have the right to seek compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, "The 10 Questions You Should Know," accessed Dec. 28, 2015

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