Ten Tips for Safer Health Care

This summary was produced by the Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Health Care, which has been 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. More questions you might want to ask your health care professional are contained in the 10 Tips for Safer Health Care booklet (270kb Pdf).

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 our needs.

2. Speak up if you have any questions or concerns

Ask questions. xpect answers that you can understand. sk a family member, carer or interpreter to be there ith you, if you want.

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?

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


  • prescriptions, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (eg vitamins and herbs); and
  • information about drug allergies you may have.

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 about:

  • directions for use;
  • possible side effects or interactions; and
  • 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.

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?

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?

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 and where, as close as possible to it happening.

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.

These 10 Tips have been adapted from the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality patient fact sheets.

This Agency provides consumer information on how to be actively involved and receive safer health care.

Five Steps to Safer Health Care
This fact sheet (365kb Pdf) 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. This fact sheet (222kb Pdf) provides other tips on how to prevent medical errors


Health Information



This site containts a range of up-to-date and quality assessed information on important health topics such as diabetes, cancer, mental health and asthma.



If you have an urgent health concern and don’t know what to do, call the after hours GP helpline on 1800 022 222 – for free health information and assistance from a registered nurse, or medical advice from a GP if you need it.



walk in centre

The Walk-in Centre provides fast, free one-off advice and treatment for people with minor illness and injury. The service is open from 7am - 11pm every day of the year, including Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
No appointment is necessary. The Centre is located at Canberra Hospital (enter from the Yamba Drive entrance and follow the signs). Children under 2 years and people with
complex or serious conditions should see their General Practitioner.


find a health service
On Monday, 26 September 2011 the ACT Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, launched the ACT Health Directorate's online services directory.  Consumers can search for services by location or by a health service category and can tailor results according to service operating hours.




Who is a health care consumer?



A health care consumer is anyone who uses, has used, or may use any health or health related service.  It is not limited to those currently using a service.  The terms "patients" and "users" generally apply only to those currently undergoing some form of treatment.


Consumers contribute in unique ways to the discussions around health care service provision because their focus and background differs from that of health service providers and medical practitioners.


Health consumers accrue experience of the health care system simply by going about their daily lives.  Consumers have dealings with GPs, surgeons, oncologists, haemotologists, physiotherapists, nurse practitioners and a range of other specialists.


A 1998 Consumer Focus Collaboration discussed the importance of involving health consumers in decision-making about their own health care, asserting that the consumer contribution "cannot be overlooked [because] they have walked the walk."



Photostrip consumers