Quality and Patient Safety  > Patient Safety Tips  > Avoiding Medication Errors 

Avoiding Medication Errors

 Help avoid medication errors by doing the following:

  • Keep a current list of all medications you take. This includes prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs (such as aspirin or Tylenol), and dietary supplements, such as herbal preparations or vitamins. Tell your doctors, nurses, and pharmacist about any allergies you may have or if you have had any problems from medications-such as stomach ache or rash. Make sure you describe symptoms experienced when you had the allergic reaction.  Ask about side effects of medications and what to avoid while taking the medication. Read the drug-specific information you receive from the pharmacy. When your doctor writes you a prescription, make certain you can read it.  If you can't read it, your pharmacist may not be able to either. Illegible prescriptions could lead to the wrong medicine being dispensed. Click here for a Medicine Record List or Formulario Universal De Medicamentos
  • Make sure you know the name of any prescribed medication and the purpose for which it is being prescribed. Encourage the doctor to write the reason for the medication on the prescription. Many medications have names that look alike or sound alike. Writing the reason on the prescription will help the pharmacist avoid a dispensing error.
  • Make sure you understand the directions on your medicine label. If the label says take "4 times a day" clarify if this means taking it every 6 hours around-the-clock or just during regular waking hours.
  • Ask your pharmacist about the best way to measure liquid medicine. For example, a household teaspoon often does not hold a true teaspoon of liquid. There are special devices, such as marked syringes, that help people measure the correct dose.
  • Take your medications as prescribed and for the complete course of treatment. Taking either too much or too little can have adverse affects on your health.
  • Keep your medicines separate from your pets' medicines and household chemicals. Don't keep tubes of ointment or cream next to your toothpaste-they feel a lot alike if you quickly grab and could result in a serious mistake.

Don't keep old or discontinued medicines lying around. Dispose them safely using current Federal Guidelines.