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Patients can play part in preventing errors

Medical professionals aren't the only ones who should be talking about harmful medical errors. Patients -- each and every one of us who ever visit a doctor -- can help identify safety issues, too. And then talk about those issues with our caregivers and lawmakers, advocating for necessary improvements.

"For consumers, the best way to play a role in improving safety is by using reports like these to identify situations of concern and to learn why they happen, and to learn about what safe, high-quality health care should look like," the Minnesota Department of Health wrote in its "Adverse Health Events in Minnesota Sixth Annual Public Report." "Armed with that information, patients and family members can ask providers what is being done in their facility to prevent these types of events from occurring. ... Patient awareness is a very important tool to improve safety.

"The information in this report should be a basis for further learning," the report said, offering several good online sources for additional information. They include:, a page at the department's own Web site;, the home page for the Minnesota Alliance for Patient Safety, a broad-based collaborative;, which provides comparative information about provider groups and clinics;, the home page for a nonprofit that leads collaboration and innovation in health care quality and safety;, a database of hospital performance numbers;, which has information about Minnesota hospitals and clinics; and, which features hospital safety and quality ratings.

With all the information out there, patients -- each and every one of us -- have few excuses for not learning more and for not becoming active participants in the ongoing efforts to eliminate medical mishaps, to find solutions, and to improve the quality and safety of health care. -- Duluth News Tribune