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Keeping patients safe by preventing medication errors

February 2, 2015 When you’re at The Ottawa Hospital, we take your safety very seriously, and that means making sure that you get the correct medications and that they’re safe for you to take. Our physicians, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and nurses work closely together to make sure that you’re safe while in our care.

Here’s how the hospital ensures that the right patients get the right prescriptions:

  • When you are admitted to hospital, a pharmacy technician documents your medication history to make sure we know what medications you’re taking.
  • These medications are reviewed by the physician, who decides what you should stop taking, what to continue, and what to change while in hospital.
  • Every prescription is checked for interactions, duplications, and allergies by the pharmacy computer system. When the system gives a warning, it’s verified by a pharmacist.
  • Our pharmacists also ensure that the medication and the dose prescribed are appropriate based on your medical history and current illness.
  •  Medications are checked twice before they get to the patient – once by a pharmacist or pharmacy technician, and once by your nurse.
  • Before you’re discharged, your physician reviews all of your medications and ensures that all changes are clearly documented for your family physician and community pharmacist.

We know that errors do still happen sometimes. When a mistake is made, it’s entered in our Patient Safety Learning System. We use this system to watch for trends and follow up to determine why the error happened and how we can prevent it from happening again. This system helps us improve and keep our patients safe.

We also use automation where possible to reduce the chance for errors to occur. Medications are entered into an electronic record that checks to catch duplications, interactions with other medications, and allergies. Pharmacy technicians also use bar codes to verify medications before sending them to patients.

Patients also have a role to play in ensuring they’re taking the right medications, especially after being discharged from hospital. Here’s what you can do to ensure you’re taking the right medications:

  • Know your medications – know what you’re taking and why you’re taking it.
  • If you’re not sure about something, ask your nurse, physician or pharmacist. They’ll be happy to talk to you about your medications and make sure you understand them.
  • When you leave the hospital, make sure you know what medications you’ll continue taking, what you need to stop taking.