How To Avoid Medication Error In A Hospital

Do not assume that a medication prescribed by a hospital physician is appropriate in every circumstance. You must ask the right questions before taking medications.

There is an alarming reality: medication prescription error is prevalent, and harms thousands of people in the United States.

One of the major causes of medication error is distraction. Physicians have many duties in a hospital, and being in a hurry can cause a lapse in judgment.

Sometimes medication error occurs because of distortions in the prescription order (for example, misunderstood symbols, bad handwriting, improper translation). Sometimes, sadly, the names of the drugs appear to sound alike or look alike (Amiodarone/Amantadine; Narvane/Norvasc; Doribax/Zobirax; Lamictal/Lamisil), and mistakes are made in prescription. Sometimes, even worse, medication error occurs because of a business conflict of interest that a Hospital may have with a drug distributor or manufacturer.

What can you do to avoid medication error?

  1. Ask the doctor or nurse about the drugs you are being given in the Hospital, including questions about side effects, and interactions with any medications you are currently taking;
  2. Request that you be involved in the decision making about drugs, especially if there are multiple types of drugs that treat the same condition;
  3. Ask about alternatives, if any, to taking the drug(s);
  4. If you have renal or liver dysfunction, be vigilant about dosage; people with such disorders need lower doses otherwise toxicity can occur;
  5. Do not take any drug without being told what it is, and the purpose for taking it;
  6. Be vigilant about long duration prescriptions, for instance, Warfarin is a drug that should be reassessed often to monitor a patient’s INR levels;
  7. Ask about the appropriate dosage, and if it may cause side effects or interactions;
  8. Prior to surgery, ask whether there are medications, including antibiotics, that you could take to avoid infections, like MRSA;
  9. Prior to discharge, ask for a list of medications that you should be taking at home and have the provider review them with you.