Consumer Tips

Medication Safety

Ask the doctor and pharmacist about the medicine. What is the name, benefits, and possible side effects or reactions with other medications or food/beverages?

  • What is it? Make sure you know the name and color of the medicine. Take medicine in well-lit areas.
  • What is it for? Make sure you know why the medicine is being taken.
  • How do I take it? Ask the doctor or pharmacist to explain how to take the medicine and how often it should be taken.
  • What should I look for? Ask what the results should be and possible reactions.

Double-check your prescription
Before you leave the pharmacy, check your medicine to make sure it was prepared for you. Speak up before you leave because pharmacies typically do not take back medicine once it has been purchased.

Discuss previous allergies or reactions.

Make sure the doctors, nurses and pharmacists, know about any allergies or reactions to drugs you or your family member might have.

Brown-bag it.
Bring the medicines or a list to every appointment. Include over-the-counter, herbal, or dietary drugs. Throw away old medicines.


At the hospital or clinic

Have someone with you.
Bring a family member or friend who knows your medical history and who can also ask questions. This can help to ensure the best care possible. Family members often provide the comfort and support needed to promote your return to good health.

Bring Medicines.
Bring all the medicines you are taking or a list of medications to every appointment.

Be active and speak up.

  • Share medical information. Write down and carry important medical information with you. Keep a list of medical history, office visits, and medication use. Medical information should include allergies and the names, addresses and phone numbers of important health care providers.
  • Make sure you understand the plan of treatment. Ask the nurse or doctor to explain any test results and the plan of treatment. If anything is not clear, speak up and ask questions.
  • Make sure you know what medicines should be taken. Make sure you know what has been ordered for your care. Ask questions if the medicines look different from before.
  • Wash hands. Patients, family members and caregivers should wash hands frequently to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Know who is charge of care. Make sure that someone, such as your personal doctor, is in charge of the care for you or your family member. This is especially important in a hospital or in case of a complex illness. Ask if your primary physician will be at the hospital.

Take Notes.
Write down any questions about the patient’s condition, treatment, clinic visit or hospital stay. Take notes about what you learn from your caregiver. A the end of your visit to the clinic or hospital, ask for information in writing, including information about medicines, follow-up care, and your treatment plan.

Learn as much as you can.
It is up to you to learn as much as you can about the care and treatment. The most important way you can help to prevent medical errors is to be an active and informed member of the health care team. This means taking part in every health care decision.


Prepare for Surgery.

  • Ask Questions. Prior to surgery, talk to the physician and nurse about any concerns.
  • Talk about the procedure. Make sure that you, the doctor and surgeon all agree and are clear on exactly what is going to be done.
  • Mark the area. Make sure the body area to be operated on is clearly marked.