5 Simple Measures to Help Prevent Medication Errors

by HGD Staff

Of the people who are 65 years of age or older in this country, 90% take at least 1drug per week, more than 40% take at least 5 different drugs per week, and 12% take 10 or more drugs per week. This high volume of drug intake leads to many challenges in managing and implementing accurate dosing. Having a medication management plan is crucial. Studies have shown that adverse drug reactions are the cause of 3.5 million physician visits yearly and the cause of 1 million emergency department visits yearly. 30% of those hospitalized will have at least one issue regarding prescription medication. This issue is particularly evident in the elderly community, as studies have shown that one third of this population is hospitalized each year due to medication errors. Much of these errors could be avoided using the simple practices listed below:

  1. Always take notes during doctors’ visits and be aware of the medications you are taking.

Ask your doctor simple questions like:

  • What is this medication for?
  • How long do I take it/when do I take it?
  • Are there any likely side effects? What should be done if these occur?
  • Is this medicine safe to take with other medication as well as nutritional and dietary supplements?
  1. Make sure your actual prescription from the pharmacy matches what your doctor prescribed.

Doctors and pharmacists are human, too. Mistakes are often made regarding the strength and even type of medication. Double check the prescription your doctor prescribed when picking up medications from your pharmacist to make sure it is a match to the name and strength.

  1. Alert your doctor to all of all your medical history, including all medications and supplements you are taking AND any allergies or previous adverse side effects from medications.

First thing let your doctor know of any allergies you have to medicataion, prescription and or nonprescription. Also, older people are more susceptible to the side effects of drugs  due to several biological factors. This includes not only prescription medications, but over the counter medications, dietary supplements, and nutritional supplements such as vitamins and herbs.

  1. Find the best way to organize your medications that works for you.

Utilizing weekly pill organizers can prevent taking the same medication too frequently or not taking it at all. Ask you pharmacy if they offer a pill pack type service. If available, the pharmacy will put together all of your daily medications into one simple packet for you with instructions on when to take by day and time, including any over the counter vitamins and medications.

  1. Be aware of time administration and set up reminders to insure you take all medications as prescribed.

Medications come with directions that are clear and concise. Following the administered time and frequency of medication as ordered by your doctor is critical. Physicians and health care providers often suggest setting reminders for taking medications on your phone, computer or daily planner.

Prescription drugs can help us all live a more healthy and productive life— if they are managed and taken correctly. Older age alone does not make people less likely to take drugs as directed. However, up to half of older people do not take drugs as directed. Adding the suggested measures above can help to prevent you or a loved one from improperly taking a prescribed medication.