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How to Prevent Mistakes with Your Medicines

Most of us who have lymphedema may have other medical conditions as well. This means often taking more then one type of medicine. It is critical that we are totally familiar with all our medications, what they do, how much we are to take, even what they look like. I remember once in the hospital, only the fact I knew what each of of my meds looked like prevented me from getting several incorrect medications. It turned out the nurse was giving me someone else's medicines. I could have easily had a fatal reaction to whatever medication that nurse was trying to give me.

Consider these sobering facts/statistics:

The true number of medication errors in a year is unknown because many go unreported, especially if there was no harm to the patient. One estimate is that a medication error occurs in approximately 1 of every 5 doses given in hospitals; another is that 1 error occurs per patient per day.

1.3 million people are injured and approximately 7000 deaths occur each year in the United States.

Drug-related morbidity and mortality is estimated to cost $177 billion in the United States.

Remember, it is up to us to be fully informed and proactive in our medical care AND in the medicines we take.


December 25, 2011

Preventing mistakes with your medicines

Tip 1: Be an active member of your health care team.

Medication errors: Cut your risk with these tips

Medication errors are preventable. Your best defense is asking questions and being informed about the medications you take.

From the Mayo Clinic staff Take part in every decision about your health care, this includes your medications. This is the single most important way you can help prevent errors. Research shows that patients who are more involved tend to get better results.

Tip 2: Make sure that all of your doctors know about everything you are taking. This includes aspirins, cough syrups, allergy medicines, vitamins and herbs as well as your prescriptions. At least once a year, bring all of your medicines and supplements with you to your doctor. “Brown bagging” your medicines can help you and your doctor talk about them and find out if there are any problems. It can also help your doctor keep your records up to date, which can help you get better quality care.

editor's note: I can not even begin to know how many people in our support groups actually hide vitamins or medications they are taking from some of their doctors. This could easily lead to an unknowing doctor prescribing a medication that may have dangerous or even fatal reaction with another medicine.

Tip 3: Make sure your doctor knows about any allergies and adverse reactions you have had to medicines. This can help you avoid getting a medicine that can harm you.

Tip 4: When your doctor writes you a prescription, make sure you can read it. If you can't read your doctor's handwriting, your pharmacist might not be able to either.

Tip 5: Ask for information about your medicines in terms you can understand. Ask your doctor about them when you get the prescription, and ask the pharmacist, too. If the answers don't match, ask them why not.

What is the medicine for? How am I supposed to take it - by mouth? Apply it to my skin? How long do I take it? What side effects are likely? What do I do if they occur? Is this medicine safe to take with other medicines or dietary supplements I am taking? What food, drink, or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine?

Tip 6: Ask: Is this the medicine that my doctor prescribed? It may seem silly, but it's best to double-check the label with the prescription when you pick up medicine at your pharmacy. A study by the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences found that 88% of medicine errors involved the wrong drug or the wrong dose.

Tip 7: If you have any questions about the directions on your medicine labels, ask. Medicine labels can be hard to understand. For example, ask if “four doses daily” means taking a dose every 6 hours around the clock or just during regular waking hours.

Tip 8: Ask your pharmacist for the best device to measure your liquid medicine. Also, ask questions if you're not sure how to use it.

Research shows that many people do not understand the right way to measure liquid medicines. For example, many use household teaspoons, which often do not hold a true teaspoon of liquid. Special devices, like marked syringes, help people to measure the right dose. Being told how to use the devices helps even more.

Tip 9: Ask for written information about the side effects your medicine could cause.

If you know what might happen, you will be better prepared if it does - or, if something unexpected happens instead. That way, you can report the problem right away and get help before it gets worse. One study found that written information about medicines can help patients recognize problem side effects and then give that information to their doctor or pharmacist.

List taken from: Priority Health

Medication Error Prevention: A Shared Responsibility

From a discussion from an interview in Medscape, please follow the link for the complete interview/article.

The 5 rights of medication administration — the right patient, the right drug, the right dose, the right route, and the right time — focus on individual performance, and ignore system defects that can affect medication administration safety.

How do medication errors happen?

From Mayo Clinic

Although medication errors can happen anywhere, including your own home, most occur in doctors' offices, hospitals and pharmacies. Knowing what you're up against can help you play it safe. The most common causes of medication errors are:

Poor communication between health care providers Poor communication between providers and their patients Sound-alike medication names and medical abbreviations Illegible prescriptions or confusing directions

Communication is key to preventing medication errors

Knowledge is your best defense. If you don't understand something your doctor says, ask for an explanation. Whenever you start a new medication, make sure you know the answers to the following:

What is the brand or generic name of the medication? What is it supposed to do? How long will it be until I see results? What is the dose? How long should I take it?

Are there any foods, drinks, other medications or activities I should avoid while taking this medicine? What are the possible side effects? What should I do if they occur?

What should I do if I miss a dose? What should I do if I accidentally take more than the recommended dose? Will this new medication interfere with my other medication(s) and how?

Asking questions is essential, but it isn't enough. You also have to share information with your doctor and pharmacist, especially if you're getting a new prescription or seeing a new doctor. Here's what you need to tell your health care providers:

The names of all the medications you're taking, including over-the-counter products and supplements which includes vitamins.

Any medications that you're allergic to or that have caused problems for you in the past.

Whether you have any chronic or serious health problems.

If you might be pregnant or you're trying to become pregnant.

10 steps to prevent medication errors

Aetna Insurance

1. When you get a new prescription, ask your doctor the name of the drug, the dosage and what it does. Ask when and how often to take it. Write it down. Follow the directions exactly.

2. Learn about your medicine. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for written information you can understand. Or, look up the drugs in our Find Drug Information section.

3. Before leaving the pharmacy, read the prescription label to make sure the medication name and dosage are what your doctor prescribed. Look at the medicine to see if anything seems different. If you have questions, ask the pharmacist.

4. Stick to your medicine schedule. Don't take more or less than your doctor directed. Don't stop taking the medicine without checking with your doctor first.

5. Know what side effects your medicine can cause, and what to do if they occur. If you start to feel strange or sick after beginning a new prescription, call your doctor right away.

6. Keep medicine in its original container. Never take medicine in the dark. Always look to make sure you're taking the correct drug.

7. If you tend to forget to take your medicine, try using special pill boxes to help you remember your medication schedule.

8. Make sure your doctors and pharmacist know everything you are taking, including prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, herbs and vitamins. Alert them to your known allergies.

9. In the hospital, make sure that everyone knows your medical and medication history, including allergies and previous bad reactions to anesthesia. Ask about any new medication you get. Ask the nurse to make sure it's what the doctor ordered.

10. If you are too ill or feel uncomfortable asking questions, have a family member or friend do this for you.

Lymphedema People Resources

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