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The first thing we do as patients is put our trust in the healthcare system. But sometimes that trust can be broken and you are faced by a medical error. In this situation, don’t stay silent. The best thing to do is to speak up and report the error. Health care providers have the responsibility of addressing the problem. Without reporting the error, there will be no way for the health care providers to fix the issue or prevent it from happening to another patient.


Who to Report to

Many patients or loved ones of patients feel uncertain or hesitant to report a medical error. These errors must always be reported and there are specific people to report to. The first person to start with is the is with the head care provider of the healthcare team responsible for your care. This could be the chief patient safety officer, the chief medical officer, the chief nursing officer, or the chief executive of the facility. Most hospitals will provide patients with advocates to help resolve issues or conflicts, so there is no shortage of providers to help resolve this error.

If you find yourself in a physician setting when the medical error occurs, you should speak to your physician or the practice manager. Patients have the right under federal law to be given information on a hospital’s internal grievance or complaint process and to know who to speak to when a complaint must be filed. If the medical error you experience is related to medication issues or serious drug side effects, you may also opt to report to the Food and Drug Administration, a federal agency that oversees medical projects. To do this, you may visit the  MedWatch Online Voluntary Reporting section of the FDA site.


Making a Formal Complaint

When filing complaint, you may want to take your issue to above the hospital or practice where the medical issue took place. One way to do this is by contacting facility’s accrediting body. Patients can report to The Joint Commission and DNV-GL Healthcare. Both accredits hospitals, medical centers, and other facilities, but DNV-GL Healthcare accredits hospitals in the United States and overseas.

You may also report to your state’s Department of Health to report serious medical errors or to the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care for any issues that occur in outpatient health care centers. If the issue has to do with a medical or health professional, report to your state’s Board of Registration in Medicine, Board of Registration in Nursing, or the Board of Pharmacy. There are also several agencies to help patients and families who experience medical errors that provide counseling and other services.


Never hesitate to report a medical issue. We as patients have the right to report any issues or errors that take place while under care. By reporting it, you many hold health care providers responsible for their error so it will never happen again to another patient. Speak up and get the care you deserve.


Mitra Rangarajan is an expert in the healthcare field and strives to empower patients to take charge of their health and safety. Read more on her patient safety research here!