Avoid mistakes during
Prescriptions Errors Education and Awareness Week
Newswise — October 24-31 is
Prescription Errors Education and Awareness Week. Billions of
prescriptions are filled in the United States every year. More
than 100,000 Americans take their prescription medications
incorrectly, which can lead to hospitalization or even death.
The Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA) aims to eliminate medication errors with Bar Code
Medication Administration, a system that greatly reduces
inaccurate inpatient medication administration and improves
patient safety. VA makes use of bar code technology (by placing
bar codes on all medications and scanning patients’ wrists as
well as the medicines) to ensure that the right medication is
given in the right amount to the right patient at the right
time. In 2002, VA’s Bar Code Medication Administration system
received the American Pharmaceutical Association Foundation’s
top award for improving health care quality and patient safety.
The Bar Code Medication Administration also provides online
medication records for the computerized patient record system,
which allowed VA to have access to patient history following
Hurricane Katrina. VA’s innovative use of technology keeps
medication errors low in daily operations as well as emergency
You can play a role in
reducing prescription errors by following these tips:
• Pharmaceutical companies have increased drug advertising and
are targeting consumers. Do not pressure your doctor to
prescribe drugs seen in commercials. Allow your doctors to make
prescriptions based on their professional opinions instead of on
what you see in advertisements.
• Make sure your doctor knows what allergies or adverse
reactions you have had to past medicines. Keep a journal of all
the medicines you take as well as the side effects you
experience to help you remember your reactions.
• Tell your doctor about all medications you are taking. This
includes prescription, over-the-counter medications, and dietary
supplements such as vitamins and herbs. It may be dangerous to
mix certain prescription drugs with certain herbals and
• Ask lots of questions. Make sure you completely understand
what is being prescribed to you and what the medication is
supposed to do for you. If you do not understand, ask your
nurse, doctor, and pharmacist. There is no such thing as a dumb
question when it comes to your health.
It’s your health. Be informed.
For more information on avoiding prescription errors or on VA’s
Bar Code Medication Administration system, please contact your
local VA medical center.