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7 steps to medication safety

7 steps to medication safety

Medication errors, or handling medication usage carelessly, can have dire consequences.  Make this the year you decide to actively involve yourself in this important aspect of your health care.

The Joint Commission, an organization that inspects and accredits health care organizations, recommends safe medication management in seven categories. Here’s how you can adapt those guidelines to handle the medications in your home:

1. Planning

  • Make a list of the medications you take now, including over-the–counter, vitamins and herbals. Include the dose, directions and name of your physician and pharmacy. Take the list with you for all doctor visits and keep the list updated with new or discontinued medications, or new dosages.
  • Include allergies and allergy medications on your list.
  • Take the list with you for all inpatient, outpatient and procedure admissions, but leave your medications at home.

2. Selection and Procurement

  • Use the same pharmacy for all your prescriptions. This prevents duplication of medications and prevents drug-drug and drug-food interactions.
  • It also allows you to use one pharmacist for counseling and questions. Also, hospitals can more readily find additional information when needed.

3. Storage

  • Keep medications in their original containers.
  • Store medications where children can’t reach them.
  • Keep tubes of ointments or creams separate from toothpaste.
  • Store medications separately from pet medications and household chemicals.
  • Do not store in bathroom medicine cabinet or in direct sunlight. Humidity, heat and light can affect medication potency and safety. Check with your pharmacist if you are unsure about medications left out of the refrigerator.

4. Ordering

  • Make sure you bring the most current list of medications to each physician or dentist office visit.
  • Ask questions about your medications, including what they are used for.
  • Be aware of all possible side effects.

5. Preparing and Dispensing

  • Turn on a light to take your medications.
  • Read the label every time you take a dose to make sure you have the right dose.
  • Liquid medications should only be measured with the device or cup that comes with the medication. Household teaspoons and tablespoons are not very accurate.

6. Administration

  • Don’t take someone else’s medications. You don’t know how it might interact with your other medications. It may be the wrong dosage, or you may be allergic to it.
  • Don’t chew, crush or break any capsules or tablets unless instructed.
  • If the medication in the hospital looks different than what you take at home, ask the nurse why. Ask the same questions you would if you were at your pharmacy.
  • In the hospital, do not let anyone give you medication, draw blood or perform a procedure without checking your ID bracelet and performing a second identifier (birth date, first and last name). Make sure everyone knows your allergies.

7. Monitoring

  • Complete all ordered lab tests to make sure your medications are working and safe.
  • Monitor blood pressure and glucose as directed.

Steve Pinneke is director of Pharmacy for Advocate BroMenn Medical Center & Advocate Eureka Hospital

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One Comment

  1. My daughter is starting to explore more and empty the contents of the cabinets in my home. I like that idea of including vitamins and herbals along with the medication. One of my friends suggested that it might be good to make sure to take note of any expiration dates of any medicine as well.

About the Author

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Steve Pinneke, MS, Pharm.D