Patients rely on health care providers, including physicians, nurses and pharmacists, to diagnose, prescribe and fill prescriptions that help to fight illness and limit the effects of disease. In the United States, more than 30 percent of adults take five or more medications regularly, and clinicians have access to over 10,000 medications that may be used to treat a variety of illnesses. Unfortunately, medication errors are all too common. As a patient, you can reduce your risk of a medication error with the following tips.
1. Communication is key to minimizing errors
You may see more than one doctor for several different ailments, and it is important that you share your health history and any regular medications you are taking across the spectrum. Poor communication is one of the most common reasons medication errors occur.
Whenever you visit a new doctor and are given a new prescription, give information about any current medications you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements. The more information your doctor has, the more accurate and successful your treatment will be.
2. You have the right to ask questions
Your doctor may have the education when it comes to diagnosing you, but as a patient you have the right to ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable about your treatment. Ask some of the following questions:
- Does the medication have a generic name?
- What does it do and when will you see results?
- How long are you taking the medication and at what dosage?
- What activities, drinks, foods or other medicines should you avoid while taking the new one?
- Are there side effects and how should you handle them if they occur?
- How does the new medication interfere with anything you are currently taking?
- What should you do if you miss a dose or take too much?
3. Organization helps keep you safe
Keep an organized, up-to-date list of any medications you are taking. Always store prescription medications in their regular containers and file the information sheets you get with every prescription medication. If possible, stick to the same pharmacy for every medication you fill, and double check that you get the right prescription when you pick it up. Never take another person's medication, and never share yours with another.
4. Know your rights when medication errors occur
Many patients trust providers blindly and end up paying the price for that trust. Medication errors can lead to serious illness or disability. If you are dealing with the effects of a medication error, you may benefit from speaking to an attorney about your options.