Staying safe in health care

Staying safe in health care

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10 Tips for Staying Safe in Healthcare

This list of safety tips was produced by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, which was set up by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to improve the safety of health care in Australia.

These 10 Tips can help you to become more active in your health care. You can find more questions that you might want to ask your health care professional in the 10 Tips for Safer Health Care booklet.

1. Be actively involved in your own health care

Take part in every decision to help prevent things from going wrong and get the best possible care for your needs.

2. Speak up if you have any questions or concerns

Ask questions. Expect answers that you can understand. If you don’t understand, ask again. It is your health care providers responsibility to explain things in a way that makes sense to you.

Ask a family member, carer or interpreter to be there with you. They can help you get the information you want and help remember the answers. Sometimes there is too much information for one person to remember properly.

Ask your health provider to write down the answers to your questions, it can help you remember what they said when you get home.

3. Learn more about your condition or treatments

Collect as much reliable information as you can.

Ask your health care professional:

  • what should I look out for?
  • please tell me more about my condition, tests and treatment.
  • how will the tests or treatments help me and what is involved?
  • what are the risks and what is likely to happen if I don’t have this treatment?

You can find out more about how to get good, reliable health information on our Finding Good Health Information page.

MyDr website:  Provides reliable health information on symptoms, diseases, tests, investigations, medicines and treatments. Also provides health tools and calculators.

NPS MedicineWise:  Provides free, independent, evidence-based information on medicines, health conditions and medical tests.

4. Keep a list of all the medicines you are taking


  • prescriptions,
  • over-the-counter medicines,
  • vitamin supplements and herbal medicines; and
  • information about drug allergies you may have.

Make sure you also keep a record of how you are supposed to take them.  You can find some medication lists and apps on our Safe use of medicines page.

5. Make sure you understand the medicines you are taking

Read the label, including the warnings. Make sure it is what your doctor ordered for you. Ask the pharmacist for information about the medicine.

Ask about:

  • when to take it,
  • if you need to take it with food,
  • will it interact with any of your other medications, including vitamins and herbal remedies,
  • possible side effects – which ones are most likely, which ones are most dangerous, and what should you do if you have a side effect,
  • how long you’ll need to take it for.

6. Get the results of any test or procedure

Call your doctor to find out your results. Ask what they mean for your care.

Pathology Tests Explained: Offers education and unbiased information on pathology tests. It includes what tests are right for your condition, how the tests are given and how to understand the results.

Inside Radiology:  Provides information about radiology procedures or tests such as x-rays and ultrasounds.

7. Talk about your options if you need to go into hospital


  • how quickly does this need to happen?
  • is there an option to have the surgery/procedure done as a day patient, or in an alternative hospital?
  • how long will you need to be in hospital?

8. Make sure you understand what will happen if you need surgery or a procedure


  • what will the surgery or procedure involve and are there any risks?
  • are there other possible treatments?
  • how much will it cost?
  • how long will it take for me to feel better?

Tell your health care professionals if you have allergies or if you have ever had a bad reaction to an anaesthetic or any other drug.

9. Make sure you, your doctor and your surgeon all agree on exactly what will be done

Confirm which operation will be performed, where and when it will be done, and what you need to do to get ready for the operation.

10. Before you leave hospital, ask your health care professional to explain the treatment plan you will use at home

Make sure you understand your continuing treatment, medicines and follow-up care. Visit your GP as soon as possible after you are discharged.

Useful resources

Five Steps to Safer Health Care
This fact sheet tells what you can do to get safer health care. It was developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association.

20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors
The single most important way you can help to prevent errors is to be an active member of your health care team.

Communication in hospital
This article from Better Health Channel includes useful tips on communicating effectively with your health care team while you are in hospital.

Last Updated on 2 May, 2024.