3 Things You Can Do To Prevent Medication Errors

It makes big headlines when a surgeon amputates the wrong limb or operates on the wrong side of the brain. But those stories make headlines because they're relatively rare. Other types of medical errors are much more common, with adverse drug events topping the list. In a perfect world, you would never need to worry about taking the medication prescribed by a doctor or handed to you by a nurse or pharmacist. But because of the possibility of human errors or flaws in the system, there are a few steps you should always take to avoid medication errors.

Keep A Medication List

One common type of medication error has nothing to do with taking the wrong medication. Instead, it has to do with taking two (or more) medications that don't agree with each other. Adverse medicine interactions can be a serious problem, and if you take multiple medications or see multiple specialists for different conditions, you're at risk.

Ideally, all of your current and past medications should be in your chart, no matter which doctor you're seeing. But in case something is missing, it's best to go into your doctor's appointments armed with a list of any medications that you're taking, and with the dosage instructions. When you're prescribed a new medication, have your doctor look over the list to ensure that the new medication doesn't conflict with any of the old prescriptions. While you're at it, make sure to include any vitamins, supplements, and over the counter meds that you take regularly, as these can also conflict with your prescriptions.

Stick With One Pharmacy

Like doctors, pharmacies don't always communicate with each other, even when doing so would be in the best interests of the patient. Pharmacists are often able to catch a mistake that a doctor and patient missed, like an unusually high dosage of a routine medication, or two medications that might interact.

However, without your prescription history in front of them, a pharmacist is unlikely to catch such a mistake. Buying all of your medications from one pharmacy streamlines things and ensures that someone who can see your medication history is looking at your newest prescription. If you need to visit pharmacies in different locations, you may want to consider at least sticking with one chain of pharmacies that has multiple locations – chances are that they'll be able to access your records from any of their locations.

Pay Attention To The Details

Many drug names sound alike, and many pills look a lot alike. These sound-alikes and lookalikes can be confusing – sometimes even for the professionals that dispense the drugs. Therefore, it's important for you to know the brand name and generic name of your drug, and to know exactly what it looks like.

Pills come in many colors and shapes and also often have numbers, letters, or symbols on them. You should know, for example, not just that the prescription you're taking usually comes in the form of a round yellow pill, but also that it has three numbers on it. That way, if you're handed a square yellow pill with a symbol on it instead, you'll know to ask why it looks different.

Unfortunately, medication errors can happen to even very careful patients. If you're injured by a medication mistake, you may have grounds for a malpractice suit against the medical professional who made the error. A medical malpractice attorney in your area like R.J. Marzella & Associates, P.C. can review your case to determine whether or not you have a claim.