Thursday, November 29, 2007

Medication errors harm at least 1.5 million people annually

5 ways to avoid medication mistakes -
He feared his wife was about to get two doses of the same medicine. "I told the nurse, and she said, 'Oh dear. We'll check that,' " says Wu, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. "Had I not been there to intercept the error, she would have gotten both doses."
Medication errors harm at least 1.5 million people every year, according to the Institute of Medicine. In hospitals, there is at least one medication error per patient per day, according to an IOM report last year.

Outside the hospital, the situation is not as clear. But the IOM report says roughly 530,000 medication errors occur among Medicare recipients in outpatient clinics -- and that this is most likely an underestimate.  "The numbers really are staggering," says Wu, who helped write the IOM report. "Medication errors happen every day."

1. Get in your doctor's face

The first step to preventing medication errors is to know exactly what your doctor is prescribing, how often you should take it, and at what dosage. Don't walk out of the doctor's office confused. "If you don't understand something, you should ask," says Wu. "This may seem like you're getting your doctor annoyed with you, but we doctors should get used to it."  Also, when your doctor writes a prescription, make sure you can read it.

2. Get in your pharmacist's face

At the pharmacy, don't just take the prescription and walk away. Check the name, make sure it's what you were prescribed, and show the medicine to the pharmacist to double check you have the right one.

3. In the hospital, get your meds in writing

Ask for a list of all the medications you're supposed to be given, what they look like, and when you should get them.

4. Make sure this is really YOUR medicine

Especially if your name is "Smith" or "Jones."

Of course, it can be tough to notice mistakes when you're sick. That's why researchers who specialize in medical errors say it's very important to have someone with you in the hospital.

5. Get dramatic if you have to

* * *

I have been prescribed medications I was told by other doctors not totake, and told "it'll be fine".  The doctor relied on the fact that it was late in the day and I was tired, not likely to wage a long battle with him.  I objected as strenuously as I had energy for, and he kept repeating "it'll be fine"; it was obvious that nothing was going to get him to change his mind.  (Though maybe I should've "gotten dramatic", called upon my trained soprano skills and started screaming at a volume that would get other medical staff to come running.)

Two days later, another doctor asked "are they trying to kill you?" and told me that if I wanted to try that medication, I should only do it in a hospital or nursing home where they could react immediately to any medical emergency that might result; my offer to have a nurse-friend stay the weekend with me was not good enough: she would not have the necessary equipment at hand when something went terribly wrong (as was highly likely).  I'd had dramatic side effects from a related medication, and NEVER should have been given any other medication in that family.  I knew that, the pharmacist knew that, but the prescribing doctor either didn't know or didn't care (or, as the second doctor mused, was trying to kill me because my claim against the medical group for malpractice would die along with me).

Thank God I'd been educated the first time around not to ever again take anything in that family, and didn't blindly trust the doctor's assertion "it'll be fine".

In that case, getting in the doctor's face was not enough.  I had to be pro-active and not fill the prescription, and talk to another doctor about it. 

Theoretically, alerting the pharmacist to my prior reaction would have gotten him on the phone to the doctor for a different prescription, with more effect than my own request for something else.  But, obviously, after hearing from the second doctor that they were trying to kill me, I chose not to trust anything else they might prescribe and walked away from that medical group.

Working with a doctor to regain your health should not be an adversarial procedure, but for too many CFS patients it becomes exactly that: poorly-informed doctors want to treat you for depression, not for viral and neurological problems, and wind up making you sicker, perhaps permanently.

You need to take charge of your own medical care, and not trust the doctors to get it right.  They're human, they make mistakes.  Don't be afraid to question them.  The life you save may be your own.


1 comment:

tschuckman said...

This message is GREAT !!  That you for having  the "where-with-all" to type this important message.   Personally, I trust "medical" doctors as far as I can spit.  My good wife, Sharon, used to be an advanced EMT and we have all the medical books and the internet to figure things out-- before they kill us.   The doctors ARE over worked and controlled by the "Big Pharm" companies-- but that just makes us do more research BEFORE we swallow the pill !  And it does not give them excuses to kill thousands of people each year  in the USA.
   God Bless you, dear friend.

Tom and Sharon Schuckman
On Wisconsin !