Posted on Jul 20, 2006
A new report from the Institute of Medicine says that more than 1.5 million Americans are injured every year by drug errors in hospitals, nursing homes and doctors offices. At least ¼ of these medication related injuries are preventable. The Institute has recommended that all prescriptions should be written electronically by 2010. Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the report was the conclusion that, on average, a hospitalized patient is subject to at least one medication error per day despite six years of intense efforts to improve hospital care. The new report could not estimate the number of patients who died because of these medication errors, but a 1999 estimate put the number conservatively at 7,000 per year. The report was also unable to say how many of the injuries were serious. There are several things that patients can do to protect themselves from drug errors. • Make sure that all of your doctors know about all of the medications, including prescription, over-the-counter medicines, dietary supplements, vitamins and herbs that you are taking. • Report all allergies or reactions to all of your doctors. • When your doctor writes you a prescription, make sure you can read it. • Ask questions and make sure the answers are in terms that you understand. • Double check to make sure that you have been given the right medication. If you have questions about the instructions for taking the medications, ask. • Ask for written information about what side effects your medication might cause.