Medication errors are one of the biggest challenges faced by patients and healthcare professionals alike. In fact, it is one of the most significant threats to patient safety. With prescription drug spending growing faster than any other sector, these errors are likely only to increase. Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent them.
What are Medication Errors?
An important thing you should know about medication errors is that they’re preventable, but they can cause harm when they happen. An example of a medication error is when you take an over-the-counter product with acetaminophen when you’re already taking medication for pain that contains the same ingredient. This mistake could make a patient take more than the recommended dose of acetaminophen, putting them at risk of liver damage.
The thing with medication errors is that they can happen to anyone, anywhere. Usually, the common causes are poor communication between healthcare providers and patients, drug names that sound the same, medications that look alike, and confusing medical abbreviations.
How Can Medication Errors Be Prevented?
As mentioned, medication errors are preventable. The best defense? Knowledge. You need to listen carefully to what your doctor says. If your prescription and treatment plan are difficult for you to understand, do not leave your consultation without asking all your questions and getting all the needed explanations. This is important, especially if you are starting a new medication for a chronic illness.
Some of the things you need to know to prevent medication errors are:
- Brand or generic names
- What each of your medications do
- How long until you see results
- The dosages
- How long you should take them
- What to do when you take more than the recommended dose
- What foods, drinks, activities, or other medications you should avoid during treatment
- Potential side effects
- What to do when side effects occur
- How the new medicines will interfere with your existing ones
Medication reconciliation is another effective way to prevent medication errors. This involves comparing the list of medications given by your doctor with a list of medications you’re currently taking. Reconciliation must be done at every transition of care where new medications are ordered, or existing ones are rewritten.
You must provide your doctor with your up-to-date treatment information to help them get a clear picture of your previous and current medications. In this case, you need to give details about your medications, such as the name, dosage, any specific health conditions, allergies, side effects, if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, and all other medically relevant information.
Develop Safety Habits
You can prevent medication errors on your end by developing safety habits. Make sure you have an updated list of all your medications, including vitamin supplements. Label your medication containers and keep them organized as thoroughly as possible. You can use a pillbox to help you with this.
It’s also a great idea to keep the information sheets that come with your medications. Also, as much as possible, get your meds from the same pharmacy for all your prescriptions and when you pick them up, always double-check if they’re the ones your health care provider ordered.
Errors in administering medication are common but preventable. Healthcare professionals, patients, and their families need to keep a close eye on what is prescribed, when medications are taken, and if the treatments are correct.
One way to prevent medication errors is to stay organized and up-to-date. If you can’t quite keep track of your medications, it’s best to download an app for taking medicine. Download My Medication Log today to keep track of all previous and current prescriptions and speak to pharmacists whenever you need to!