10/18/2002

Patients Can Ask Five Simple Questions to Help Avoid Medication Errors

In celebration of National Pharmacy Week, October 20-26, 2002, health-system pharmacists are reminding patients that today’s medications are more powerful and complex than ever before. To use their medicines safely, patients in hospitals should ask their caregivers five simple questions to help avoid drug interactions or other medication problems. 

A national survey conducted by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) revealed that 85 percent of patients are concerned about at least one medication-related issue when entering a hospital or health system.  Seventy percent of patients are concerned about taking two or more medicines that interact in a negative way.  (For a full survey report, visit www.ashp.org/public/public_relations/activities.html.)

“Drug interactions are a real concern for many patients, as well as for pharmacists,” said ASHP President Debra Devereaux, MBA, FASHP. “It is extremely important that patients tell their health-care providers about all of the medications they take.  Pharmacists in hospitals and health systems are a great resource for patients who have questions or concerns about their medications.”

Health-system pharmacists recommend that patients in hospitals ask their care givers the following five questions about their medications: 

1. What is the name of my medication?
2. What is it used for?
3. How will this drug interact with other medications I am taking?
4. Should I expect any side effects? And what should I do if I experience a side effect?
5. What should I do if I miss a dose either in the hospital or at home?

Studies show that patients experience less medication-related problems when a pharmacist is directly involved in their care.  In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1999, there was a 66 percent decrease in prescribing errors when pharmacists were included on patient rounds in an intensive care unit. 

Medication errors are preventable mistakes in prescribing or delivering medications that can cause a range of negative consequences, including allergic reactions, lifelong disability, and death.  Errors can include the prescribing of:

  • Two or more medications that interact negatively,  
  • A drug to which the patient is known to be allergic, and  
  • An incorrect medication dose. 

Errors can occur at any point during the processes of ordering, transcribing (the process of transferring the physician order onto medication sheets by hand), and dispensing and administering medicines.

ASHP is the 30,000-member national professional association that represents pharmacists who practice in hospitals, health maintenance organizations, long-term care facilities, home care and other components of health care systems.  ASHP, which has a long history of medication error prevention efforts, believes that the mission of pharmacists is to help people make the best use of medicines.  Assisting pharmacists in fulfilling this mission is ASHP’s primary objective.  The Society has extensive publishing and educational programs designed to help members improve their professional practice, and it is the national accrediting organization for pharmacy residency and pharmacy technician training programs.  For more information, visit www.ashp.org or www.SafeMedication.com.


 


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