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from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Diseases & Conditions



Staying Healthy

Patients Are Important Members of the Orthopaedic Surgery Healthcare Team

Ensuring patient safety is a national priority, and everyone involved in the healthcare system has a role — including you, the patient.

Patients receiving orthopaedic care can help make their experience safer by becoming active, involved, and informed members of the healthcare team. Here are 5 steps you can take to increase your own safety:

  • Be an active participant
  • Educate yourself
  • Identify an advocate
  • Know your health history and medications
  • Get to know your team

1. Participate in Decisions About Your Healthcare

Research shows that patients who take part in decisions about their healthcare are more likely to have better outcomes. The more information patients have about their own care, the better they can make decisions about what is best for them given their lifestyle, goals, and personal beliefs.

Patient and healthcare team

Courtesy Thinkstock ©2013

Work with your orthopaedic surgeon and other healthcare professionals, and participate in all decisions about your treatment.

  • Keep records about your medical history and share up-to-date details with your healthcare team. Your medical history includes:
    • Any medical conditions and illnesses
    • Immunizations
    • Allergies, reactions, and sensitivities
    • Past hospitalizations
    • Other doctors treating you, such as other types of specialists
    • Medications and dietary supplements (i.e., vitamins, herbal products).
  • You and your doctor should agree about exactly what will be done during each step of your care.
  • Know who will take care of you, how long treatment will last, and how you should feel.
  • Ask to speak with other people who have undergone any procedure you are considering. They can help you prepare for what to expect and the best ways to recover.

2. Educate Yourself About Your Condition

Ask your doctor to give you easy-to-read brochures or other patient-friendly content, so you can learn about your diagnosis, medical tests, and treatment. Make sure you understand everything. If you don't understand something, keep asking questions until you do.

  • Seek information about illnesses or conditions that affect you, options, and possible treatment plans. Good sources of information include your doctor, libraries, medical society websites (like OrthoInfo, which is produced by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons), and support groups.
  • Ask questions of your doctor, nurse, pharmacist and other healthcare professionals, and choose a doctor, clinic, pharmacy, and hospital experienced in the type of care you require.
  • Take notes when you talk with your doctor and ask them for written information.
  • Thoroughly read all medical forms and make sure you understand everything before you sign.
  • Never be afraid to seek more than one opinion. It is not an insult to your doctor. If you are unsure about the nature of your illness or injury or the best treatment, consult one or two more specialists (if possible). Getting more information helps you be more confident in your decisions.

3. Identify an Advocate

Consider involving a trusted family member or friend in your care. You may want an advocate to:

  • Come with you to your appointments.
  • Stay with you in the hospital.
  • If you are having surgery, stay with you at home during your initial recovery period to help with household tasks.
  • Ask questions of healthcare professionals.
  • Review consent forms for treatment.
  • Remember healthcare instructions for you.
  • Know what to look for and who to call should your condition get worse.
  • Speak up for you if you cannot.
  • Know your wishes regarding resuscitation and life support, including possibly serving as your Power of Attorney for Healthcare (POA). POA designation gives a person the legal power to make medical decisions for you if — and only if — you are not able to do so.

4. Know the Medications You Take

Medication errors (i.e., wrong medication, wrong dosage) are the most common healthcare mistakes. Know the names and dosages of all medications you take, and why you take them.

  • Tell doctors and nurses if you have any drug allergies.
  • Ask your doctor for written information about your medications and any potential drug side effects.
  • Make sure you can read your doctor's handwriting on prescriptions. If you cannot read it, ask that the prescription be typed or printed, so there is no confusion at the pharmacy. Review the prescribed dosage with your physician before getting a prescription filled.
  • Follow your doctor's directions and take medication exactly as prescribed.
  • If you are taking multiple medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to take the medications together. The same is true for vitamins, herbal supplements, and over-the-counter drugs. This is very important because in some cases, there may be danger from cross-reactions. To make sure your doctor knows everything you currently take, it is a good idea to make a list — including the medication names, dosages, and how often you take them — before your first appointment.
  • If you do not recognize a medication (it does not sound familiar or you have never taken it before), verify that it is really for you.

5. Get To Know Your Healthcare Team

Take time to learn about the doctor, team, and hospital providing your care. Questions you should ask include:

  • Is your doctor board-certified or board-eligible?
  • What is your doctor and team's experience in diagnosing and treating your type of condition? What are the outcomes for the procedure you need?

Use a hospital, clinic, surgery center, or other health care organization that has undergone a rigorous on-site evaluation for compliance with established, state-of-the-art quality and safety standards, such as that provided by JCAHO.

  • Ask about the healthcare organization's experience in treating your type of illness or condition. How frequently do they perform the procedure you need? What specialized care do they provide? What is their safety record?


Safety is a priority for your orthopaedic surgeon and the entire team caring for you. You can play an important role in your care by being an informed and active member of your healthcare team.

Last Reviewed

June 2024

Contributed and/or Updated by

Nina R. Lightdale-Miric, MD, FAAOS

Peer-Reviewed by

Mary K. Mulcahey, MD, FAAOS

AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS Find an Orthopaedist program on this website.