This summary was produced by the Australian Commission on 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.

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. Expect answers that you can understand. Ask a family member, carer or interpreter to be there with 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
The Five Steps to Safer Health Care 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. The 20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors fact sheet provides other tips on how to prevent medical errors.

Last updated: 22/6/2021