How to Prevent Medication Errors

Hospitals take precautions to prevent medication errors. So can you! Did you know you can bring your own medicines to the hospital? Don't keep it a secret, though. The drug you keep under wraps could interfere with another medicine you'll be prescribed during your stay. Learn the tips that can help you get the medication you need, at the dosage and time you need.

Medication errors can occur in hospitals and surgical facilities, sometimes with grave consequences. However, hospitals and health care providers are working to improve medication safety. Some hospitals have adopted new ways of protecting patients from receiving the wrong drug or wrong dose. Examples include:

  • "Smart" drug infusion pumps that have computer software with built-in safety checks that warn of medication errors
  • Computer alerts that send a notice from the hospital's lab to its pharmacy if a patient's medication levels are outside appropriate limits on lab results
  • Medication reconciliation programs to make sure that all hospital departments correctly communicate a patient's medication information when the patient is admitted, transferred to another unit, or discharged
  • Bar codes on medications that must be matched to a bar code on the patient's ID bracelet
    You, too, can do things to help avoid mistakes happening with your medications or with doses being missed.
  • When a nurse or doctor brings you a new medicine, ask what it is for, who prescribed it, how often you'll get it, and what its side effects are.
  • Read the name on any bag of IV fluid or medication you receive, or ask someone else to read it.
  • Make sure that the care provider checks your ID bracelet or asks your name before giving you medication.
  • If you don't receive your medicine when you think you are supposed to, tell a nurse.
  • Don't be afraid to tell a nurse or doctor if you think you are about to be given the wrong drug.
  • Tell your nurse right away if you have a bad reaction or don't feel well after receiving medicine.
  • If you bring your own medicines to the hospital, give them to the nurse. Do not take them without the nurse's supervision because doing so may interfere with another drug you are receiving. Instead, ask your surgeon to prescribe it for you. Note: Many hospitals encourage patients to bring their meds. As hospital pharmacies get more and more restrictive, a patient may be asked to take a different but equally effective drug. Ask your surgeon. He or she may give an order for you to take your own medicine to avoid making a change.
  • Remember your patient rights. You have the right to review your medical record. If you have any questions or concerns about your medications or other treatment, ask to see your patient chart.speak with an anesthesia professional in advance or arrange a meeting.

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I'm Shereen A. Gharbia, PharmD. Welcome to PDR Health!

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