Medication Errors

A medication error is any preventable event occurring in the medication-use process, including prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, using and monitoring, that results in inappropriate medication use or patient harm.  Every day, 34 Americans die in their home because of a preventable medication mistake. (Don't think it could happen to you? Neither did they.)   The number one error to the California board of pharmacy is getting the wrong persons medication.  (remember to Triple check, your name, address, and date of birth against the prescription your picking up.)  Slow down, Get a consultation from the pharmacist.  Remember, this is not a milkshake you're ordering...   remember that medications have the ability to heal and harm. As a patient or caregiver, the power to do both is in your hands.  You are the last line of defense.  Be active - take part (or have a caregiver take part) in the decision making process.  The single most important way you can help to prevent errors is to be an active member of your health care team.

how to be cautious ///  Things you can do to prevent errors:

  • Be active – take part (or have a caregiver take part) in the decision making process.  The single most important way you can help to prevent errors is to be an active member of your health care team.
  • When you get a prescription, make sure you can read it, you know what it is for and your pharmacist counsels you about it before you take it
  • Keep an up-to-date medication list readily available (that includes OTC, vitamins and herbals) and that you PROACTIVELY provide your physician and pharmacist with
  • Include on the list any allergies (including the reaction) you may have
  • Ask your pharmacist to add on the label the indication of the medication
  • Ask specifically how to take the medications (with food, without food; in the morning vs. the evening)
  • Ask what side effects to expect and whether you have to avoid driving a car
  • Use the internet (http://www.drugs.com/pill_identification.html) and check that the medication that was dispensed is correct (research name and indication and check imprint/color, etc).
  • Ask questions until you truly understand what you are taking and why
  • Ask to get the information you requested in writing (this way you can confirm at home what was said in the pharmacy in case you forget)
  • Don’t be shy – for example, if you’re in the hospital - ask your physician and nurse when coming into the room whether he/she has washed their hands?
  • Make sure that you have one physician who coordinates your care (i.e. one doctor to which all of your medical records from specialties and hospital admissions go to).  The same goes for Pharmacies – use one pharmacy, and get to know your Pharmacist.
  • If you have a test done and you don’t hear back, call the office and follow up. (no news, does not mean good news)
  • ASK, ASK, ASK (and if you can’t, have an advocate with you)

What should you do if the pharmacy makes a mistake ///  When you think an error occurred:

  • If you picked up your prescription and it looks different, don’t assume this was done on purpose. Call your pharmacy and check.
  • Call your physician/pharmacist immediately if you suspect a medication error has occurred. If you cannot get a hold of your physician, seek immediate medical care.

Links

Reference - Morbidity and Mortality from Medical Errors: An Increasingly Serious Public Health Problem" Annual Review of Public Health, Vol. 23: 135-150 (Volume publication date May 2002)