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What You Can Do to Avoid Medication Errors

Use these tips at the doctor's office, pharmacy, home

  • You will probably be told to sign an electronic log or clipboard when you hand in your prescription or when you receive it. Signing this means you know your "HIPAA" (federal privacy law) rights and, in many pharmacies, that you have received an offer to be counseled by the pharmacist. By signing it, you are acknowledging that you do not want to talk to the pharmacist. If you would like to talk to a pharmacist, let the clerk or the pharmacist know that you have questions and want counseling.
  • When you get your medicine, check that the drug's name and directions are the same as what your doctor told you. 
  • Consult with the pharmacist about how you should take the medication. Ask about food-drug interactions, alcohol-drug interactions, and necessary monitoring tests. Make sure the pharmacist has your updated list of medications so the pharmacy can check for possible interactions, too.

At home:

  • Keep your personal medication record (the list of prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements) updated. Give a copy to loved ones, keep a copy with you, and consider posting a copy on your refrigerator.
  • Use a pill organizer so you can easily see if you need to take your medication or you already took it. You can fill it once a week. This reduces missed doses, reminds you that you took your medications, and avoids double dosing. A pill organizer can be really handy if you're helping someone keep track of their medicines.
  • Read the written information that comes with your medicine carefully. It has important information about side effects, how to store it, interactions with other medications, and how and when to take your medicine.
  • If you take more than one medication — and most 50+ adults do — enter your medication list into an online drug interaction checker, like AARP.org’s, to make sure your medications don’t interact with each other in a way that is harmful to you.

You may also like: Organize your health information. >>

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