1. Elective surgery on a Friday or in the afternoon carries higher mortality and complication rates than earlier in the week or day.

Obviously, if the situation is urgent, you must have it. However, for elective surgery, you always want to consider the timing. Every surgery has risks and complications. On about 4:00 p.m. on Friday, regular crews or shifts leave. If you have surgery at the end of the day, the critical post-op hours (12) are at night. Also, if complications occur on weekends, it’s usually more difficult to get immediate action because your doctor is gone and the covering physicians don’t know you as well and are less quick to intervene for another doctor’s patient.

2. Fatal medication errors spike by 10 percent every July as new medical residents start taking care of patients (J Gen Intern Med 2010).

Depending on the situation, patients are not always aware of what medications they’re given. Always ask the nurses, confirm the details, and if it does not seem right or if the medication looks different from what you’re usually given, ask the nurse to check with the doctor. Be very vigilant and, in a nice way, ask questions. Go with your gut.

3. A misdiagnosis occurs in at least one out of every 20 patient encounters in doctors’ offices (BMJ Qual Saf 2014).

As I have stated in the past, thankfully most medical errors in a primary care setting don’t make a difference. And doctors do care deeply about doing the right thing and taking care of their patients. However, the truth is that primary care doctors, for instance, simply have less time to talk and examine a patient, so there are certain mental shortcuts taken.  For example, if a doctor sees 10 patients with the flu and you come in with flu symptoms, there will be a bias toward diagnosing the flu.

So, as I wrote earlier, you need to break this autopilot thinking and ask your doctor: “If the diagnosis isn’t right, how and when will we know?” or “How will we know if the treatment is working?” Your doctor should respond with something concrete so you have important information to pay attention to over time.

4. What are your doctor’s surgical and procedure complication rates?  How do they compare with the national rates for the same procedure.

Ask your doctor what the complication rate is.  A surgeon who is dismissive or says it’s ‘not a problem’ or it’s a ‘walk in the park’ is a bothersome response. You want a doctor to acknowledge that there can be complications and to set forth what they are. You want to make sure that the doctors are aware that complications can occur and are watching for them so they can deal with them. Have the doctor compare his or her rates to the national average too.