It’s hardly a secret that people avoid going to the doctor. The tedious 20 minutes in the waiting area followed by another 10 sitting in the exam room only to get five minutes with the doctor isn’t exactly something to look forward to. Patients are so rushed they’re usually unable to get through all of their ailments before being interrupted.

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A study found that people were only able to finish their “opening statement of concerns” in 23 percent of doctors’ visits, according to U.S. News and World Report. And this lack of communication can have a significant impact on your health. The website reports that inadequate communication results in more than 70 percent of adverse health outcomes. In fact, medical mistakes are a huge problem in our healthcare system, accounting for about 10 percent of all deaths in the United States. This makes it the third-highest cause of death in the country.

Many errors are preventable. Here are five ways you can spot serious mistakes:

Question Your Medication

Sometimes it feels like doctors are quick to write a prescription to get you out of the office. You have a right to know why a doctor is recommending a particular drug, so ask why he or she chose that one, possible interactions with other medications, dosing, alternatives and risks. If your doc suggests an antibiotic, make sure a culture is done to determine that you do in fact have an infection, suggests Consumer Reports. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 30 percent of prescribed antibiotics in the United States are unnecessary.

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Ask About Tests

Former emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen, M.D., and current health commissioner of Baltimore, writes on her blog that about $700 billion is spent every year on unnecessary tests and treatments. She also points to studies indicating that roughly 80 percent of cases can be diagnosed without testing based on medical history. Before undergoing testing, Wen advises asking about why it’s needed, the risks and how the results will effect treatment.

Bring A Friend

It’s hard to remember which questions should be asked when you’re feeling sick. If you’re at the hospital, the experience can be even more chaotic and stressful. Bringing a friend will help ensure that there’s a second set of eyes and ears who can catch mistakes, ask questions and take notes.

Check Your Medication

“There are many opportunities for a medication order to go wrong — it goes from a physician, to a pharmacist, then to a nurse to administer it— and a mistake can happen somewhere along that chain,” Tejal Gandhi, M.D., M.P.H., president and CEO of the National Patient Safety Foundation, tells Consumer Reports. Be sure that your medical team knows about every pill you take, even supplements, and to check the pill bottles and ask questions about dosage.

Get Proper Discharge Information

About one in five patients are readmitted within one month of getting out of the hospital. Consumer Reports’ research suggests that patients with thorough discharge instructions have lower readmission rates, and advises people to meet with medical staff prior to leaving. The magazine suggests asking for a written summary of at-home care instructions, diet and activity restrictions, medication list, follow-up information and copy of all tests.

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