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Alabama Hospital Association

Improving Medication Safety

Medicines are powerful chemicals that can help you get well or that can cause problems if they’re not used correctly.

Alabama’s hospitals go to great lengths to ensure that medicines are packaged in the right dosages, and that they’re given to the right patient .  They use many checks and balances, like the patient bracelet that is scanned and matched to the patient record and to the medication and the five rights checklist:

• Right medicine  • Right dose  • Right patient  • Right time  • Right route (e.g., should you get your medicine by mouth? through an IV?)

However, medication safety is a big job … a job that cannot be done without you.  Patients and their caregivers are a critical part of our medication safety plan, and we ask that you:

• Tell your nurse and other health care providers about any allergies or side effects you have had to any medicines in the past.

• Make sure your nurse and doctor know all the medicines, supplements, and herbs you were taking before you came to the hospital. Bring a list of all these with you. It is a good idea to keep this list in your wallet and with you at all times.

• While you are in the hospital, do not take medicines you brought from home unless your doctor tells you it is okay to. Make sure to tell your nurse if you take your own medicine.

• Ask what each medicine is for. Also ask what side effects to watch for and tell your nurse about.

• Know the names of the medicines you get and what times you should get them in the hospital.

• Ask your nurse to tell you what medicines they are giving you and how often you're getting them. Speak up if you think you are getting the wrong medicine or getting a medicine at the wrong time.

• Any container that has medicine in it should have a label with the name of the medicine on it. This includes all syringes, tubes, bags, and pill bottles. If you do not see a label, ask your nurse for the name of the medication.

• Ask your nurse if you are taking any medicine that is a “high-alert” medicine. These are medicines that can cause harm if they are not given the right way, even if they are used for the right purpose. A few high-alert medicines are blood thinners, insulin, and narcotic pain medicines. Ask what extra safety steps are being taken if you are taking a high-alert medicine.

• Know what you are to take when you leave – Typically, if someone has to be readmitted to the hospital within a few weeks, it is because of a problem with his medication.   This can be avoided by paying attention to instructions, filling your prescriptions and taking the medicine appropriately.  And, if you have any questions, never hesitate to call your doctor or to check with your pharmacy.


Click to see why you should ask questions about your medications.