July Physician Focus: Medicines and Medication Safety

American medicine seems blessed with a plethora of antidotes for a multitude of ills. Physicians’ Desk Reference lists more than 1,100 of the more commonly-prescribed prescription medications, and pharmacy shelves contain scores of over-the-counter remedies in different dosages and formulations for adults and children. Add a growing list of supplements – vitamins, herbals, and other ‘natural’ medicines – and you have a lengthy list indeed.

Throw in the increasing number of medicines (prescription and otherwise) taken by individual patients, new medicines reaching the market, and the hit-or-miss levels of patient understanding and compliance in using medicines.

All those factors combined present quite a challenge.  And raise the risk for error.

“Medication errors are among the highest number of errors we encounter in medicine, in the hospital and in the home,” says Mary Anna Sullivan, M.D., President of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors.

Dr. Sullivan, who is also Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Chief Quality and Safety Officer at Lahey Clinic in Burlington, discusses the critical issue of medication safety in the July edition of Physician Focus, MMS’s monthly patient education television program, with program host Bruce Karlin, M.D.

Among the topics of conversation: what physicians take into account when prescribing medications for patients; considerations for giving medicines to children; the role of electronic prescribing; steps patients can take to increase medication safety; relationships among physician, patient, and pharmacist; and how to obtain free materials on medication safety from the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors.

Physician Focus is available for viewing on public access television stations throughout Massachusetts. To view online and comment, visit www.physicianfocus.org

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