Ask a Doc: What you need to know about the medicines you and your family take

Ask a Doc: What you need to know about the medicines you and your family take

Health and Safety

Ask a Doc: What you need to know about the medicines you and your family take

If you were rushed to the hospital unconscious, would a loved one be able to provide a current list of your medications to the Emergency Department nurse?

What if it were your child or parent? Would you know the names and dosages of their prescriptions? How about any non-prescription medications?

Medications are NOT a guessing game

No one wants to be in an emergency situation guessing about critical medical information that will affect their care. Often times, not having this information will cause a delay in care, as nurses try to confirm current medications with the pharmacy or a family member before providing that information to the physician.

Not having up-to-date medical information can lead to medication errors and adverse drug events.

Consider these startling statistics:

  • Preventable medication errors impact more than 7 million patients and cost nearly $21 billion annually across all care settings.
  • Adverse drug events account for more than 3.5 million physician office visits and 1 million Emergency Department visits each year.
  • Research shows that 58 percent of adverse drug effects can be prevented if patients reconciled their medications, kept medication lists current and carried their lists with them at all times.
  • Half of all hospital-related medication errors and 20 percent of all adverse drug events have been attributed to poor communication at the transitions and interfaces of care.

How to avoid adverse effects from medications

At Abrazo West Campus and its sister hospitals throughout the Valley, we are working hard to reduce errors by reconciling patients’ medication history and regimen every time there are changes.

This is critical so we can help patients avoid adverse effects from dosing errors, omissions, duplications and drug interactions.

Reducing medication errors will take work on your part, too.

Here are a few things you can do now:

Keep a historical record. This applies to you, along with your spouse and children, and it’s a good idea to ask your parents to do the same, especially if you may be called to assist them with a health crisis.

You may prefer to document your medications on paper, but a simple Internet search will reveal several apps that are compatible with both iPhone and Android smartphones, too.

Be sure to include:
  • Allergies to both medications and foods and the type of reaction (e.g., hives, rash, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing)
  • Medical history. This may include chronic conditions or recent illnesses.
  • Medications, including name, prescribing doctor and pharmacy, date started, dosage and whether it was completed or is ongoing.
  • Name and dates of immunizations.
  • Vitamin supplements, herbal remedies and other over-the-counter items, such as cough medicine or topical solutions. Remember to be specific regarding dosage.
  • Other pertinent health information. For example, you may not be allergic to a certain medication but you had a negative experience, such as an upset stomach, taking it.

Update the list when changes occur. It may sound cumbersome, but it’s important to keep your list current. Even the slightest change, such as adding a vitamin supplement, should be noted.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Date your list each time you make a change.
  • Don’t rely on health providers to have your most current list. It’s true that more hospitals have access to prescription histories, but sometimes digital records are only partially updated.
  • Ask your pharmacist to print out a list of medications filled there in the last year. ***This is particularly helpful if you use more than one pharmacy for your medications.
  • Make sure someone in your family or circle of friends knows where you keep this list.

Time is precious when you’re juggling so many things, but do yourself and your family a favor by putting medical reconciliation at the top of your to-do list.

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