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Top 5 ways to reduce ER medication errors

At the Law Firm of Edmiston & Colton in Montana, we know that medical errors occur far too often, whether in your doctor’s office or in a hospital. Medication errors account for a high percentage of Emergency Room medical errors.

U.S. News reports that over 141 million people visit an ER each year. If you are one of them, here are the top five things you can do reduce the chances of becoming a medication error victim.

1. Carry a medication list

Make a list of all the meds you take, including the following for each:

  • Name and milligram level
  • How often you take it
  • How much you take in each dose

Include all the over-the-counter meds, vitamins and herbal remedies you take, as well as the prescription ones. Also include your drug allergies. Keep this list in your purse or billfold. Should you arrive at the ER unconscious or confused, your list could save your life.

2. Carry a physician and pharmacy list

Carry a second list containing the names, email addresses and phone and fax numbers of each of your doctors and pharmacies. These are the people who prescribe your drugs and fill your prescriptions, so they know why you take what you take. Consequently they can provide the ER with critically important information.

3. Make sure ER staff verify your ID

Before allowing any ER nurse or staff member to give you a drug, make sure (s)he checks your patient ID bracelet to verify that the name on it matches the name on your hospital medication record. With hundreds of patients to see each shift, failing to ensure that the right patient gets the right drug is one of the biggest medication error causes.

4. Take your patient advocate

If at all possible, take your patient advocate with you whenever you go to the ER. This can be your spouse, an adult child, your in-home caregiver or a good friend. If you forget part of your medical history or cannot fully answer all questions or fill out all the paperwork, (s)he can help you. If you are unconscious, (s)he can provide much or all of the needed information.

5. Ask questions

Before taking any drug in the ER, ask what it is and why the nurse or staff member is giving it to you. If it is a drug you have never taken before, ask about its purpose, benefits, potential side effects and possible interactions with meds you already take. If (s)he does not answer your questions to your satisfaction, insist on speaking with a doctor or pharmacist.

For more information, please visit this page on our website. 

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Billings, MT 59101

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