Patients need to be alert to the many risks associated with new prescriptions. Typically, during a visit to the physician or nurse practitioner, you may be handed a prescription to have filled at your local pharmacy. Make sure that you know the name of the medication prescribed and its' purpose before you leave the office.
Encourage the prescribing professional to write the reason for the medication directly on the prescription. This is important for two reasons:
1. Many drugs have names that look alike or sound alike.
2. Some doctors may have handwriting that is difficult to read leading to misinterpretation by your pharmacist. Writing the reason for use on the prescription will help the pharmacist avoid a dispensing error later at the pharmacy. Some physicians may already be using prescription blanks with diagnosis prompts or icons to ensure accuracy.
Some physicians have begun to prescribe medications using a hand held computer. This new technology uses a radio- frequency wireless connection to communicate directly to retail pharmacies, or may print out a prescription right in the office. These systems are useful in reducing medication errors that may be caused by hard to read handwriting or misspelled medications. They also alert physicians to proper dosage requirements, potential interactions with other medications and circumstances in which a particular drug may not be beneficial for you. Select systems are also capable of identifying for the physician specific medications that are acceptable within the coverage of your health plan.
While this technology does have it's advantages, it is not fail-proof. Errors can occur if the pharmacist or pharmacy technician accidentally picks the wrong drug from a drop down menu. Drop down menus have a list of all the drugs by alphabetical order. Names that begin in the same letters, or different dosages of the same drug can be mistaken for each other. Because electronic prescriptions are sent directly to the pharmacy you should request the name, dose and frequency of the prescription at the doctor's office. This way when you get your prescription, you will be sure to have the correct medicine.
Whatever method is used to prescribe your new medication, make sure that the physician is aware of all the drugs you are currently taking (even over-the -counter or herbal products) to avoid duplication or interaction with your current medications.