Medication Safety

Medication errors are the most common health care mistakes. Medication mistakes happen every day-at the doctor's office, hospital, even at home. Some mistakes are more serious than others, but all of them can be prevented.

Here are some basic things you can do to help prevent a medication mistake from happening to you or your loved ones.

  • Know your medications and why you take them.
  • Share with your doctor a list of your current medicines, vitamins, herbs and supplements. Also, tell them if you use any recreational drugs.
  • Make sure the doctor or nurse checks your wristband and asks your name before giving you medicine.
  • Tell your doctor about allergies you have, or negative reactions you have had to other medicines. Ask your doctor or nurse about possible side effects of new medicines.
  • If you are taking a lot of medicines, ask your doctor if it is safe to take those medicines together. Do the same thing with vitamins, herbs and other supplements.
  • Ask for written information about it, including its brand and generic names. 
  • Understand that more medications may not be better.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse how a new medicine will help.
  • If you receive intravenous (IV) fluids, ask the nurse what is in the IV.
  • If you're not sure if you are supposed to swallow or chew your medicine, ask your doctor or nurse.
  • Take your medicine as it is prescribed and do not stop taking it without asking your doctor.
  • Whenever you are in doubt about a medicine, ask your doctor or nurse about it.
  • Don't be afraid to tell the nurse or the doctor if you think you are about to get the wrong medicine.
  • Know what time you normally get a medicine. If you don't get it then, tell your nurse or doctor.
  • Tell your nurse or doctor if you don't feel well after receiving a medicine. If you think you are having a reaction or experiencing side effects, ask for help immediately.
  • Before you leave, make sure that you understand all of the instructions for the medicines you will need to keep taking, and ask any questions you may have about any of your medicines.
  • Make sure you can read the handwriting for prescriptions. If you can't read it, ask to have the prescription printed.