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Reduce Medication Errors

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Tips to Help Seniors Reduce Medication Errors

(ARA) - For many seniors, taking medication is part of their daily routine. The last thing that they need is to worry about a medication error. Unfortunately, errors do occur, but they can be prevented through special attention and careful monitoring.

In 2002, there were 192,477 medication errors documented by United States Pharmacopeia (USP), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that works to promote the safe and proper use of medications. The groupís MEDMARX medication error database shows that the vast majority of medication errors were corrected before causing harm to the patient.

However, 3,213 errors, or 1.7 percent of the total, resulted in patient injury. Of this number, 514 errors required initial or prolonged hospitalization, 47 required interventions to sustain life, and 20 resulted in a patientís death. Compared with 2001 data, a smaller percentage of reported errors resulted in harm to the patient (1.7 percent in 2002 versus 2.4 percent in 2001).

The 2002 MEDMARX data report revealed a number of significant findings of interest to seniors, including:

* A majority (55 percent) of fatal hospital medication errors reported involved seniors.

* 9.6 percent of prescribing errors to seniors were harmful.

* The most harmful medication errors to seniors were wrong route (7 percent), such as a tube feeding given intravenously, and wrong administration technique (6.5 percent), such as not diluting concentrated medications.

* Omission errors (43 percent), improper dose/quantity errors (18 percent), and unauthorized drug errors (11 percent) were the most common types of medication errors among seniors.

United States Pharmacopeia advances public health by ensuring the quality and consistency of medicines, promoting the safe and proper use of medications, verifying ingredients in dietary supplements, and promoting safe medication use at the national, state and local levels.

As part of its work in patient safety, USP has created a list of tips for seniors and their caregivers on how to better manage the medication use process and decrease the risk of medication errors.

  1. Check the label when you get a prescription to verify that youíre receiving the proper medication. If possible, read back the prescription to your pharmacist or health care provider.
  2. When possible, keep all medication in original containers. >
  3. Know what to do if you miss a dosage, and always remember to contact your health care provider or pharmacist if you have any doubts.
  4. Try to fill all prescriptions at the same pharmacy.
  5. Read the patient information sheet that accompanies your medication. If you are not given one, ask your pharmacist for the printed information about your prescription.
  6. Should there be a change in the color, size, shape or smell of your medication, notify your pharmacist immediately.
  7. Do not share or take another personís medications.
  8. When in doubt about a medication you are taking, always consult your pharmacist and/or health care provider! And remember to ask about any side effects that you might experience or expect.
  9. When in the hospital:
    • State your name before taking any medications and always offer your wrist bracelet for identification. Ask the nurse to identify each medication by name before you take it.
    • If your medication has not been given at its regular time during your hospital stay, inquire from the nurse as to why.
    •  Remind your health care provider if you have any allergies to certain medications and food or if you also have a health condition that could affect the use of certain medications.
  10. Also remember to tell your health care provider if you are taking any dietary supplements or over-the-counter medications.

  11. Finally, create a list of all the medications youíre taking. The list should include the following information:
    • Your full name and date of birth
    • Drug name (the drugs being taken, both generic and brand)
    • Strength (dosage)
    • Directions for using the medication, including how many times a day and when the medication should be taken
    • What liquids or foods are being used to take or should be used to take with medications, for example, water, juice, apple sauce etc.
    • Allergies to certain medicines and foods
    • Pharmacy and health care providers names, addresses, telephone numbers
    • Family emergency contact information

    This list should be updated on a monthly basis and a copy should be kept with you at all times. Also keep copies at your home and share with family members and friends who need to know where your personal medication list is located. Take this list with you when you go for doctorís appointments, hospital stays or emergency room visits -- and show it to all your health care providers so that they are aware of the medications you are taking.

USP has created a Personal Medication Organizer for use in organizing and accounting for the medications you are taking. To obtain this organizer, please visit http://www.usp.org/pdf/patientSafety/personalMedOrg.pdf. The organizer is free and you can print as many copies as you need.

For more information about USP, visit www.usp.org.

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