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How medication safety is affecting patients

As a patient, you'll likely have to take medications at some time in your life. Whether it's antibiotics, long-term medications for swelling, pain medications, or other drugs, you'll expect them to work for you and to cause minimal, if any, side effects.

Improving medication safety is the key to making sure you don't get hurt by the drugs you're given. Medication safety isn't just about the drugs being safer, though. Your doctor and pharmacists should be working together to make sure you're taking medications together that aren't dangerous when combined, and you should always be receiving the right drug for your condition.

Part of correcting medication errors is admitting what went wrong and talking about a plan to make sure it doesn't happen again. For instance, in one story, a little girl's life was threatened when a morphine pump was turned to high instead of turned off. While she was able to survive the overdose, the best part of that situation was that the team responsible said what would be changed to make sure this didn't happen again, what the medical facility would do to make sure the child was okay, and took responsibility.

Many factors can cause a medical error to take place, whether it's being short staffed or ordering the wrong dosage of a medication for a patient's weight due to a computer error. These errors can be prevented, though, with the right standards and checks in place. Error reduction strategies are in place in the U.S. health system, but it's not guaranteed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is attempting to reduce these errors by requiring bar codes on certain drugs, which can help make sure the right drugs and doses are being administered to the correct patient.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "Strategies to Reduce Medication Errors: Working to Improve Medication Safety," accessed May 24, 2016

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