Medication safety is a topic that deserves frequent discussion and attention. Medication has gotten very complicated with the growing number of prescriptions and types available for all kinds of health related issues. I encounter patients and families that are faced with complex medication schedules.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 2012, 82% of American adults take at least one medication and 29% take five or more. For the senior and elderly population, the numbers increase and it is fair to say that my current patients and clients usually take 10 or more medications. Yes…10 or more! Adverse medication reactions (ADE) are responsible for 700,000 emergency department visits and 120,000 hospitalizations. Mistakes can and do happen and they may have very serious consequences.
Americans spend $3.5 billion on extra medical costs of ADEs annually. At least 40% of costs of ambulatory (non-hospital settings) ADEs are estimated to be preventable. There are solutions to avoid being part of those alarming statistics.
Six Rights of Medicine:
Professionals who are responsible for ordering, dispensing, and administering medicine focus on these key areas.
- Right Person: verses the spouse and/or other family members living in the home
- Right Medication: medications can look very similar-double check every time
- Right Dose: # of pills, teaspoons, or drops can vary depending on time of day
- Right Time: with, before, during, after meals, full or empty stomach, bedtime etc.
- Right Route (method): oral pill or under the tongue, topical , patch, inhaled etc
- Right Record-keeping: charts in notebooks, dry erase boards, electronic records
As patient advocates, families are responsible for these six rights too. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the amount of medicine that has to be given. More families care for elders in the community with increasingly complicated health challenges and medication needs and are not sure where to start helping with medication safety.
Medication Systems & Tools
There are several types available for ensuring medication is taken properly including keeping an accurate running medication list, medication boxes with four compartments per day, running notebooks with check-off charts, and electronic reminder systems. Keep in mind that the user must be comfortable with the system.
For example, a Boomer may really like to keep an electronic log on their laptop, but a senior spouse may be better-served by using a dry-erase board or running notebook with a grid and check-off system. Using schedules that are tied in with mealtimes and sleeping/wake times are helpful too.
There are many ways to ensure that medication errors are nearly eliminated, just make sure the physician orders are followed exactly as written.