Preventing medication errors: A guide for patients

There are several steps patients can take to prevent medication errors and ensure their health moving forward.

Many patients in Michigan and throughout the U.S. take at least one medication to treat or manage an illness or medical condition. Today, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, clinicians have access to over 10,000 prescription medications and approximately one-third of adults in the U.S. take five or more medications. Since prescription drugs are so accessible and used frequently, patients should do their part to avoid harm caused by a medication error.

Seek further information

Patients should familiarize themselves with the kinds of medications that can occur. After evaluating reports from 1993 to 1998 about medication errors, the FDA determined that some of the most common mistakes included:

  • Giving a patient the incorrect drug
  • Administering the wrong dose
  • Using an improper use of administration

Of those taking a prescription medication, the elderly and children are most vulnerable to a medication error.

When patients are described a new medication, they should find out exactly what the drug is and what it is for. Patents should also request that their treating physician write the purpose of the prescription on the order, which can prevent an issue in case confusion over the drug name occurs.

Fully understand directions

On top of understanding what their prescription medications are for, patients should make sure they understand how to take them correctly. For example, patients should ask their doctor how many times they should take their prescription every day, if the drug should be taken with food or if the medication should be kept in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Additionally, patients should ask their physician if there are any side effects to expect and what they can do to cope with them.

Maintain a comprehensive list

Patients should maintain a comprehensive list of all the medications they take. This list should include over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements, medicinal herbs and any other substances used for health purposes. Patients should not forget to include sleeping aids, birth control bills, vitamins and laxatives on this list. When patients attend an appointment with their healthcare provider, they should bring this list with them and present it to their physician.

Reach out to an attorney

Patients in Michigan who were harmed by a medication error may suffer from physical, emotional and even financial difficulties while struggling to live a normal daily life. Those who are struggling with the effects of a medication mistake should contact an attorney in their area for legal assistance.