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Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors

The following list is adapted from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

No matter what type of care you require, you are sure to benefit from following the tips contained in this list.

Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors:

Medical errors can occur anywhere in the health care system:  In hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, doctors' offices, nursing homes, pharmacies, and patients' homes.  Errors can involve medicines, surgery, diagnosis, equipment, or lab reports.  These tips tell what you can do to get safer care.

What You Can Do to Stay Safe

The best way you can help to prevent errors is to be an active member of your health care team.  That means taking part in every decision about your health care. Research shows that patients who are more involved with their care tend to get better results.


1. Make sure that all of your providers know about every medicine you are taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements, such as vitamins and herbs.

2. Bring all of your medicines and supplements to your doctor visits.  "Brown bagging" your medicines can help you and your doctor talk about them and find out if there are any problems. It can also help your doctor keep your records up to date and help you get better quality care.

3. Make sure your doctor knows about any allergies and adverse reactions you have had to medicines. This can help you to avoid getting a medicine that could harm you.

4. When your doctor writes a prescription for you, make sure you can read it.  If you cannot read your doctor's handwriting, your pharmacist might not be able to either.

5. Ask for information about your medicines in terms you can understand—both when your medicines are prescribed and when you get them:

  • What is the medicine for?

  • How am I supposed to take it and for how long?

  • What side effects are likely? What do I do if they occur?

  • Is this medicine safe to take with other medicines or dietary supplements I am taking?

  • What food, drink, or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine?

6. When you pick up your medicine from the pharmacy, ask:  Is this the medicine that my doctor prescribed?

7. If you have any questions about the directions on your medicine labels, ask.  Medicine labels can be hard to understand. For example, ask if "four times daily" means taking a dose every 6 hours around the clock or just during regular waking hours.

8. Ask your pharmacist for the best device to measure your liquid medicine.  For example, many people use household teaspoons, which often do not hold a true teaspoon of liquid.  Special devices, like marked syringes, help people measure the right dose.

9. Ask for written information about the side effects your medicine could cause.  If you know what might happen, you will be better prepared if it does or if something unexpected happens.

For any other questions you may have, be sure to speak with a Gatti pharmacist right away.


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