Medical errors can involve surgery, diagnosis, equipment, lab reports, and medicines. They can happen in any setting in healthcare including hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, nursing homes, pharmacies and even in patients’ homes. Most errors occur due to today’s complex healthcare system, however errors also happen when doctors and patients have problems communicating. The following are some tips for you as the patient can use to receive safer care.
How to avoid being a victim of medication errors:
Taking an active role as a member of your healthcare team is the best way to prevent errors, which means being a part of every decision about your healthcare.
1) Be sure to alert the doctor of any medications you may be taking including prescription, over-the-counter medications and even dietary supplements (Vitamins and herbals).
2) Bring a list of all medications and supplements with you to your doctor’s visit. You can create your own list or ask your pharmacy for a list of medications you have been filling. The pharmacy may be able to provide you more information if you complete a comprehensive medication review (CMR) for you and your doctor.
3) Be sure to talk to your doctor about any allergies that you may have, as this is will prevent you from receiving any medications that may harm you.
4) When the doctor writes a hand written prescription, make sure it is legible for you to read. If you struggle to read the prescription, your pharmacist may also not be able to read it.
5) Being an active learner by asking for more information about your medications in simple in terms that you can understand.
You may ask questions to your doctor or pharmacist like:
-What is this medication prescribed for?
-How do I take this medication and for how long?
-Are there any side effects that I should be concerned about? What should I do if they occur?
-Is this medication safe to take with any other medications or dietary supplements that I currently take?
-Are there any foods, drinks or specific activities that I should avoid while using this medication?
6) If you have any questions about the directions on the medicine label, be sure to ask your pharmacist. For example, three times a day may also mean every 8 hours.
7) Ask your pharmacy for any written information about all side effects that the medication could cause. Knowing what could happen will better prepare you for if and when it does happen or if something unexpected occurs.
8) With liquid medications, be sure to ask your pharmacist for an appropriate measurement tool. For example a teaspoon at home may not be the 5 ml exactly. Ask for syringes with marked measurements or other special devices.
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University of Houston College of Pharmacy PharmD Candidate, class of 2018.
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