Steps to prevent medication errors

If possible, use the same pharmacy for all your prescriptions so a pharmacist is better prepared to avoid possible drug interactions.
Medication errors occur every day, both in the health care setting and at home. In the hospital, medicines pass through a series of steps to prevent possible errors before reaching the patient.

"Checks are in place at the point when medicine is prescribed, when the prescription order is documented, when the medication is dispensed and when the prescribed medicine is administered to the patient," says Diane Cousins, R.Ph., vice president, Department of Patient Safety Standards Division at the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).

"The patient is also monitored to assess any response to the medication -- all in an effort to ensure patient safety."

A list of 10 tips entitled "Ten Ways Consumers Can Help Ensure That Medication Errors Are Avoided" is available on the Web at EN/patientSafety/tenTipsForConsumers.pdf.

The listing provides consumers with tips on making decisions about medications: Talk, Know, Read, Avoid, Monitor.

Talk with your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professionals about safe medication use. Keep an up-to-date list of medicines and dietary supplements you use, and always ask questions about any concerns or thoughts.

Know your medicines by being aware of when, how and how long to use them. Also know what to do if you miss a dose, and whether or not there are any side effects.

Read the label and follow directions. Always double-check that you have the right medicine, particularly if you are refilling a prescription, and never combine medicines in the same bottle. Make sure you understand the directions.

Avoid interactions. Before starting any new medicine or dietary supplement, ask your health care provider or pharmacist if there are possible interactions with what you are currently using. Whenever possible, use the same pharmacy for all your prescriptions.

Monitor your medicines' effects and the effects of other medications or supplements you take. Pay attention to how you are feeling and write down the changes so that you can remember to tell your health care provider or pharmacist. If you experience any side effects, contact your health care provider immediately.

For more information, visit

Discuss This Article