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Simple Tool Helps Patients Avoid Harm from Medication Errors

  [ 10 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • September 29, 2008

Medication errors harm or kill about 30,000 people every week in the U.S. (1.5 million a year), according to data developed by the Institute of Medicine. And an amazing 60% of these harmful mistakes result because information about a drug wasn’t correctly documented or communicated during a transition – from doctor to doctor, department to department, or healthcare setting to home, for example.

The problem is so serious that a national organization was formed in 2006 to improve communication during patient transitions – the National Transitions of Care Coalition (

As a first step NTOCC is urging patients and their care givers to take responsibility for seeing that information about the medications and supplements they take is updated and clear (to both patient and care provider) each time they have a healthcare visit, and with each transition they make.

"My Medicine List"
Prevention starts with a 1-page printable form called “My Medicine List,” designed by the American Society of Health System Pharmacists (Scroll down to page 2).

You can print out, complete, and bring a copy of this at-a-glance form to each encounter with doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other healthcare professional. It is a quick way to structure and, if need be, force:

• Review and discussion of what you currently take - drugs and supplements.

• Documentation of any corrections or changes suggested during the visit.

Down the right side of the form you can list which medications you take at different times of day:

“When I get up, I take…”

• “In the afternoon I take…”

• And so on through bed time, followed by “Other medicines I do not use every day…”

Then, for each drug listed, across the page you can describe what you know (or don’t know) about each medicine, under these headings:

• Drug Name (brand name, generic name, dose)

• This looks like…

• How many?

• How I take it.

• I started taking this on:

• I stop taking this on:

• Why I take it.

• Who told me to take it.

You can print out a companion page with spaces to enter other useful information and reminders for this healthcare visit – your contact information, note of any allergies or problems with medicines, note on when and with whom you have reviewed and updated your medicine list, and note on any questions you want to ask your doctor or pharmacist.

And for Doctors... a Patient Transitions Guide
NTOCC is also encouraging doctors to hand out and use "My Medicine List" with their patients. And more broadly the organization is working with healthcare providers to institute more effective systems for the transfer of patient information between practice settings, as described in a Transitions of Care Checklist.

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