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Avoiding Medication Errors

Be an Informed Consumer

Unfortunately, medication errors happen. They happen in hospitals, in pharmacies and even at home. And sometimes people get hurt because of these errors. The more information you have, the better able you are to prevent errors and to take care of yourself.

Key questions to ask about your medications before you go home

  1. What are the brand and generic names of the medications?
  2. Why am I taking it?
  3. How much should I take, and how often?
  4. When is the best time to take it?
  5. How long will I need to take it?
  6. What side effects should I expect, and what should I do if they happen?
  7. What should I do if I miss a dose?
  8. Does this interact with my other medications or any foods?
  9. Does this replace anything else I was taking?
  10. Where and how do I store it?

Medical Error Prevention Checklist:
What you can do to prevent medication errors in the hospital

  • Take your medications and the list of your medications with you when you go to the hospital. Your doctors and nurses will need to know what you are taking.
  • After your doctor has seen them, send your medications home with your family. While you are in the hospital you may not need the same medications.
  • Tell your doctor you want to know the names of each medication and the reasons you are taking them. That way, if anyone tells you anything different, you'll know to ask questions, which might prevent errors.
  • Look at all medicines before you take them. If it doesn't look like what you usually take, ask why. It might be a generic drug, or it might be the wrong drug. Ask the same questions you would ask if you were in the pharmacy.
  • Do not let anyone give you medications without checking your hospital ID bracelet every time. This helps prevent you from getting someone else's medications.
  • Before any test or procedure, ask if it will require any dyes or medicines. Remind your nurse and doctor if you have allergies.
  • When you're ready to go home, have the doctor, nurse or pharmacist go over each medication with you and a family member. Update your medication list from home if any prescriptions change or if new medications are added.
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