What's in Your Medicine Cabinet?
Keep track of your history
- Write your medical history.
- Make a list of all the medications you take. Include dietary supplements and vitamins.
- List the names and telephone numbers of your doctors and pharmacies.
Work as a team with your doctor and other healthcare professionals
- Make sure all your doctors are aware of medications that other physicians have prescribed for you. Tell them about any over-the-counter medications and homeopathic or herbal products you are taking.
- Pharmacists are excellent sources of medication information. If possible, take any new prescriptions or refill requests to the same pharmacy so that you can get to know your pharmacist and he or she gets to know you.
What you can do to make sure you get the right medicine
- Take all your medicines with you when you meet with your doctor to help prevent any problems with interactions.
- Tell your doctor and pharmacist about any allergies you have, and any alternative or herbal therapies you may be taking.
- Make sure you know what medicine your doctor is prescribing for you.
What can you do to be sure you take the right amount?
- Ask your doctor what times of the day you should take your medications.
- Ask if you should take the medication with food.
- Be sure you know how to measure liquid medicines.
- Be sure to use the right measuring tools.
Before taking medication at home
- Read the label. If you get a refill and the new medication looks different from your previous prescription, contact your pharmacist immediately.
- Many medications have names that sound or look alike. Be sure you have the correct medication.
- Recheck the label before each dose.
- Never take medication in the dark.
- Know the possible side effects for each medication and be alert for itching, swelling or trouble breathing after you take a new medication. GET MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY!
- Keep medications in their original container and store them in a locked cabinet, out of the reach of children.
While you’re in the hospital
- Hospitals are aware of their responsibility to make sure that medications are administered correctly and on time, and have systems of checks and balances in place to help ensure that medications are used safely and effectively.
- You, a family member or caregiver may be able to help ensure safe medication use. For example:
- When you arrive for admission, bring a list of the medications you are taking. Please use the “Your Medication List” form available for download on the Web site. If you have not completed the list, bring your medications in their containers.
- Each time a doctor prescribes a new medication, be sure to ask the questions listed above.
- If a nurse comes to your room to replace an IV solution or administer a medication, ask what it is for. If the nurse gives you a yellow tablet, for example, and you think it should be orange, question it.
Handling a hospital or retail pharmacy medication error
Serious medications errors are very rare. If you are concerned that an error has occurred, ask your doctor.
- Remember that the effects of most medication errors are minimal. Ask your doctor or pharmacist what is the probable impact the error could have.
- Ask for a full explanation of why the error occurred. Expect an honest dialogue.
- If you believe your questions are not being answered satisfactorily, ask to talk with the hospital’s designated patient advocate, nurse manager or patient representative.
- If you have suggestions about how to prevent medication errors, please share them with your healthcare provider or a patient representative.