If you had to, could you name all the medications that you take, including prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, and their dosage strengths? Are you aware that you have to give that information to a health care provider as you’re being admitted to the hospital? Do you think you could remember it all? If you’re only on one or two medications, this might not be very difficult at all, but if you’re on several, it could be a tough task. Knowing your medication history could help prevent adverse drug events.
A study published in 2010 found 36 percent of patients had medication errors at admission to the hospital, 85 percent of which originated from the patient’s medication history. “In hospitals all across the country, patients are often unable to tell their health care providers what medications they take, or what dosage strength they take,” said Blount Memorial Hospital director of pharmacy Jeanne Ezell. “In emergency situations, many patients are not able to convey medication information, and this information is often paramount in guiding treatment decisions,” she added. Ezell says the key to preventing medication errors from occurring both in and outside the hospital is to make sure you and your health care providers know what and how you are taking medications.
The Tennessee Pharmacists Association (TPA) developed a Universal Medication List (UML) to aid in communication of medication information from patients to physicians, pharmacies and other health care providers. “The UML is a standardized form for patients to keep an up-to-date record of their medications and pertinent information such as dosage and frequency,” Ezell said. “The list can be started at an office or clinic visit, at hospital discharge or at the patient’s pharmacy,” she added.
Ezell says the form not only contains medication information, but also asks for a patient’s personal contact information, primary care physician, and allergy and immunization information. “The form includes instructions for patients to keep it complete and up-to-date,” she said. “The instructions urge patients to keep the form with them at all times, to keep the list current, and to present the form at all doctor, pharmacy and hospital visits. A web address is printed on the form where clean copies of the UML can be downloaded,” she explained.
At Blount Memorial Hospital, patients are asked for a list of their medications and allergies when they are admitted for care. Patients are encouraged to bring all of their medications to the hospital with them so they can go over each one carefully with their health care provider. “Physicians review this medication list and must decide which medications should be continued during hospitalization, and which should be changed or stopped,” Ezell said. “Each patient leaving Blount Memorial is provided with a Discharge Medication List, along with education on new medications and any changes in medications taken at home prior to hospitalization. Patients are encouraged to use the updated list of medications, keep it up-to-date with any changes to their medications and carry it with them at all times,” she added. “It is especially important to share the discharge medication list with your pharmacy and physicians so they are aware of medication changes after hospitalization.”
“If this process were widely adopted, medication errors such as therapeutic duplications, medication omissions, and drug-on-drug interactions would decrease substantially, and many hospital admissions and adverse drug events could be prevented,” Ezell said. “There are many new options for electronic storage and maintenance of your medication list, as well as your health history. Smartphone apps such as MyMedSchedule, MyMeds, and MedSimple are convenient ways for people to keep up with their medications, and get real time reminders of when a medication needs to be taken,” she added.
If you don’t have a medication list, you can download a copy of the UML at www.tnpharm.org, or under the "Documents" heading on the See All Resources page at www.blountmemorial.org. The UML is available in a variety of languages, including English, Spanish, Japanese, Hindi and Vietnamese. Be sure to keep the list updated and with you at all times.