Medication safety: at home and in the hospital

Taking your medicines safely at home

Personal Medication List

Download a personal medication list
in Adobe Acrobat format

Research has found that medication errors occur with about 5% of all handwritten prescriptions.

Medicines can be great when you need them. But if you take them the wrong way, they can make you feel worse. Follow these "Medicine DOs and DON'Ts."

Medicine DOs

  • Bring your medicines or a list of your medicines each time you see your health care provider
  • Read your prescription
  • Read the label carefully
  • Know these things about each medicine you take (whether prescribed or bought "over the counter")
    • Name (generic and brand name)
    • Reason for taking it
    • What it looks like (color, shape)
    • How much to take and how often
    • How long you should take it
    • Possible side effects and what to do if you have them
    • Does it work against other medicines or nutritional supplements you take?
    • Are there foods you should avoid while taking this medicine?
    • Special instructions (such as taking at bedtime or with meals)
    • What to do if you miss a dose
  • Take your medicine exactly as prescribed
  • Ask for help in making a schedule so you know what medicine to take at what time of day
  • If you can, use one pharmacy for all your prescriptions. The pharmacist can help you keep track of what you're taking
  • Make sure your family or someone else knows what medicine you take and when you take it

Medicine DON'Ts

  • Don't combine prescription and over-the-counter medicines or nutrition supplements unless your health care provider says it's okay
  • Don't stop taking a medicine without first talking with your health care provider
  • Don't change how much or often you take it without first talking with your health care provider
  • Don't take someone else's medicine

Ask questions! Talk with your health care provider, pharmacist, or nurse if you have any questions or concerns about your medicines.

Taking your medicines safely in the hospital

If you become a patient in one of our hospitals, here are the steps we'll take to ensure that you receive the right medicine, in the right amount, at the right time.

  • Your doctor will select the medicine and dose that's best for you
  • Each order is checked and double-checked by pharmacists and nurses
  • Computer records are kept
  • The pharmacist prepares and labels the medicine
  • Your nurse will bring the medicine to you, explain it, and answer your questions
  • You will be watched closely to make sure the medicine is working and that you do not have serious side effects

Here's what you can do

You and your family are members of the health care team. Here are some things you can do to ensure safe medicine use:

  • Bring a list of your medicines, or bring the medicines in their containers, to the hospital
  • Make sure you know these things about each medicine you take:
    • Name (generic and brand name)
    • Reason for taking it
    • What it looks like (color, shape)
    • How much to take and how often
    • Possible side effects
    • Does it work against other medicines or nutritional supplements you take?
    • Are there foods you should avoid while taking this medicine?
    • Should it be taken with food or on an empty stomach?
  • Ask questions if:
    • The medicine is new
    • The medicine looks different to you
    • The timing seems different or wrong to you
    • You think you may be having side effects from the medicine

There may be simple answers to your concerns, but never be afraid to bring them up. This makes you a partner in your care. As a team, we'll work together to ensure a safe hospital stay for you.

More resources

DISCLAIMER: The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.