The World Health Organization just announced that they are targeting medication mistakes which they say kill one person per day and injures 1.3 million per year. Their goal is to work with health care professionals to stop these errors from happening.

My goal as a patient advocate is to educate people, especially those going to a hospital, to have their family or friends look out for them while they are there. After all, Dr. Bob Wachter in his book “The Digital Doctor” describes a case where a teenager was given 38 times the amount of medication due to a computer error.  

With that in mind, while we are sick, in pain or just recuperating—we should always reach out to family and friends (or even a professional advocate) to watch over our in-hospital medications.

  • Write down a list of medications that will be given on a regular basis during the hospital stay and which ones will be give prn (as needed) as well. Have the list available for the staff to check when they come into the room and have them check each one off as they are given to the patient.
  • Do quick research on the list to be sure those medications are appropriate for the patient.
  • Whenever new IV meds are hung up and about to be connected, double check the label or have the nurse read it off.
  • Use or other online pill identifiers if there is any question about the medications given or the dosage.
  • Post a large sign stating any drug allergies in the hospital room where the doctors and nurses will see it.
  • If any medications seem to be an unusually high dosage, ask why they are being given.

This should keep us all safe and free of medications errors. In this day of cutting back nursing staff and nurses being asked to handle more and more patients as well as the added possibility of computer glitches—we should all watching out as computer errors have been added to those of humans. And we will be able to do our part as patients and advocates for patients to boost safety in our hospitals by eliminating medication mistakes.