October 28 to November 1 is Patient Safety Week across Canada and the theme this year is Medication Safety.
And this year our focus is on our patients, residents and clients and how they can help their nurse, doctor and pharmacist to provide the best and safest care possible!
How can you help us? By creating an up-to-date and accurate list of medications that you are taking – a list that you can carry with you at all times. The list should have the medication name, how much you take and when you take it. You should include all medications that you are taking including:
- prescription drugs,
- over-the-counter medications,
- any herbs and vitamins you take, and
- any medications that you that you take only when you need to.
Who needs your list – and why?
This list gives everyone involved with your health care a good picture of your medications, especially in an emergency situation when you may not be able to speak for yourself and your family and friends may not be aware of what you are taking. Your family doctor or pharmacist can help you develop or update your list, which you should give a copy to your next-of-kin and all your health care providers, such as:
- your family doctor,
- nurses or doctors in hospitals or outpatient clinics, whenever they ask for it.
Your list will be used to create an up-to-date medication profile to keep on your permanent hospital record if you become a patient of Eastern Health and it will be available to all of your health care providers. If your medications are changed during a stay in hospital, they are checked against medications already on your list – to make sure that all medication changes are made on purpose and that there’s no conflict between any medications that could result in harm to you.
It’s also important to remember to update your list as new medications are added or others removed when no longer needed.
In health care, we call this MedRec, which stands for Medication Reconciliation. It’s a big phrase with a simple message: We need to know all the medications you’re taking at any point in time, to know what we can safely prescribe for you at any point in time!
Why is this so important?
It’s all about avoiding medication errors. Medication errors can occur when health care providers don’t have all your medication information when you show up with a health issue.
It’s also about communication.
If you tell us what medications you’re on – then everyone’s working from the same list: family doctors, pharmacists, hospital or clinic staff – wherever you’re being treated – at home, at your family doctor’s office, in a hospital, a clinic or in a long-term-care home. A consistent list of medications becomes especially important if you’re being moved from one location to another.
We make patient safety a priority at Eastern Health. But we can’t do it alone! We need you to partner with us to make sure we give you the best and safest care possible.
Make sure you have a current medication list and make sure everyone who needs a copy – has a copy.
The difference it makes could help us save your life! ■
This story was written by Lynne Loveys Kane, project manager for Medication Reconciliation at Eastern Health. She works with the Department of Quality, Patient Safety and Risk Management.