Medications provide a variety of benefits to patients, from reducing symptoms to saving lives. That said, the processes of prescribing, dispensing and administering medications are not perfect. If something goes wrong during any step of the process, patients can suffer complications and injuries.
The burden of accurately ordering, packaging and giving drugs falls on health care professionals, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists. Patients can take certain steps to safeguard themselves from medication errors.
1. Know the medication
When a doctor writes you a prescription, make sure you know the name of the medication. Do not simply trust the doctor to write the correct prescription or the pharmacist to provide it to you. Ask the doctor the name of the drug, and analyze it before you leave the pharmacy. The label should tell you the size, shape, color and texture of the drug. If anything looks different, verify it is the correct medication with the pharmacist.
2. Ask how to use it
Do not be afraid to ask questions of your doctor or pharmacist. Ask questions like:
- Do I take it before, during or after eating?
- What is the timing between each dose?
- What are the common side effects?
- What do I do if I experience side effects?
- What do I do if I forget to take a dose?
- Should I avoid any food, activities or other medications while taking this drug?
Getting answers to these questions will help you understand your drug and know what to expect.
3. Keep track of all your medications and supplements
Create a list of all medicines you take, including the names, doses and schedule. Make sure you include any vitamins, supplements and over-the-counter drugs, too. Keep this list handy so you can bring it with you whenever you see your doctor or pharmacist. This will help your health care providers make accurate decisions regarding what to prescribe you.