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Patient Medication Safety

Unfortunately, medication errors happen. They happen in hospitals, in pharmacies,or even at home.

The more information you have, the better able you are to prevent errors and take care of yourself. You have to ask your pharmacists, doctors, and nurses about your medications, and you have to expect answers.

Find out all you can about your conditions and the medication(s) you are taking — including over-the-counter medications. What you learn will help protect you.

Your doctors, nurses and pharmacists work hard to keep you healthy, but you are also responsible. Learn what questions to ask. Expect answers...it’s your life and your health!

Remember...medication error prevention is a shared responsibility.

What you can do at home...

  • Make a list of medications you are taking now. Include the name, dose, how often you take them, and the name of your pharmacy. Any time that your medications change, update your list too. Also list your medication and food allergies, and any over-the-counter medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements or herbal products that you take regularly.
  • Store medications in their original containers.
  • Never take someone else’s medication.
  • Read the label every time you take a dose to make sure you have the right medication and that you are following the instructions.
  • Don't store medication in the bathroom medicine cabinet or in direct sunlight.
  • Keep medications separate from pets’ medications or household chemicals.
  • Don't keep tubes of ointments or creams next to your tube of toothpaste. They feel a lot alike when you grab quickly.
  • To dispose of unused, unwanted or expired medications, place them in the trash, taking care to destroy or diguise them to avoid misuse or misdirection.
  • Mixing prescription medications with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and putting them in containers such as empty cans, or sealable bags will further ensure the medications are not diverted.
  • Don’t chew, crush or break capsules or tablets unless instructed. Some long acting medications are absorbed too quickly when chewed. Other medications either won’t be effective or could make you sick.
  • To give liquid medication, use only the cup or other measuring device that came with the medication.

What you can do at your pharmacy...

Your pharmacist can be your partner in preventing medication errors. Many pharmacies offer services that monitor your medications. With this information in place, your pharmacist can help protect you against harmful drug interactions, duplicate medications, and other potential problems.

  • Before you leave the pharmacy, your pharmacist should give you printed information about the medication and make sure that you understand the answers to your questions.
  • When you buy over-the-counter medications, read the label carefully, because the medication may contain ingredients you do not want or should not take.
  • Ask your pharmacist for help if you have trouble selecting the right product.

What you can do at the doctor’s office...

  • Take your medication list every time you go to the doctor’s office, especially if you have more than one doctor. They may not know about medications that another doctor has prescribed for you.
  • Ask your doctor to explain what is written on any prescription including the drug name and how often you should take it. Then when you take it to the pharmacy, you can double check the information on the label.
  • Tell your doctor you want the purpose for the medi-cation written on the prescription. Many drug names look alike when written poorly; knowing the purpose helps you and the pharmacist double check the pre-scription.
  • If your doctor gives you samples, make sure that he/ she checks to be sure there are no interactions with your other medications. Pharmacies have computers to check for interactions and allergies, but when your doctor gives you samples, this important check may be missed!

What you can do in the hospital...

  • When you come to the hospital, bring a list of the medications, nutritional supplements, vitamins, over-the-counter medications and herbal medications you are taking at home.
  • If you bring your medications to the hospital, send them home with your family once the nursing staff has seen them. While you are in the hospital, you may not need the same medications.
  • Tell your doctor you want to know the names of the medications you will be receiving while in the hospi-tal and the reason you are taking them. That way, if anyone tells you anything different, you’ll know to ask questions, which might prevent an error.
  • Look at all medications before you take them. If it doesn’t look like what you usually take, ask why.
  • Do not let anyone give you medications without checking your name band. This helps prevent you from getting someone else’s medications.
  • Remind your nurse and doctor if you have allergies.
  • When you get ready to go home, have the doctor or nurse go over each medication with you and a family member.