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Patient safety is one of the nation's most pressing health care challenges. A 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine estimates that as many as 44,000 to 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals each year as the result of lapses in patient safety.

There are things you can do to help yourself get safer health care. Some are as simple as making sure that when you are in the hospital your wristband has the right name on it. Other ways to reduce risks are:

  • Ask questions if you have doubts or concerns. Take a relative or friend to help you ask questions and understand answers
  • Make sure you understand what will happen if you need surgery
  • Tell your health care providers about all the medicines you take, including over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements, and any allergies or bad reactions to anesthesia
  • Get a second opinion about treatment options
  • Keep a copy of your own health history

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