Be Well

Flourish: Preventing Medication Mistakes


Do you take steps to prevent medication errors?

Older adult woman looking at prescription instructions

Drug therapy and medication distribution are complex processes and errors can occur. Consider ways to prevent these errors by learning about possible mistakes and ways to avoid them.

Common medication mistakes

Communication: Most errors are due to miscommunications. Many patients walk away with a prescription but are unclear on how much to take, how often, when is the best time to take it, why they are taking it and more. In addition, instructions on medications may be printed in small type, making it difficult to read.

Handwritten prescriptions: A widely known cause of error in medication is illegible handwritten prescriptions. If you can’t read your prescriber’s handwriting, most likely the pharmacist will not be able to read it either and might give you the wrong medication.

Missing medication information: Insufficient or missing information, such as not having information on allergic sensitivities, can result in problems with medications.  


4 tips for preventing medication errors

Education: Understanding your medications goes a long way toward preventing errors. For example, know why a medication was prescribed and how it is supposed to affect your body, why you are taking the medication and when the medication expires. 

Organize: Many pills look the same and can be confusing. To avoid taking the wrong one, keep your drugs organized with labels describing when and how to take them.

Ask questions: If you have any questions or doubts, ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider questions. A helpful tip: ask your provider to write down each medication you are taking and information about each one.

Double-check the medication: Make sure you check the medication’s instructions each time you take it, even if you’ve taken it multiple times. This is vital especially if you are taking multiple medications because your risk of accidentally taking the wrong one increases.

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