Thrive: 2018 Resolution,Time to update your medication list

Neighborhood Health Corner

Lakeview Hospital

Modern medicine has produced an astonishing array of medication to cure infections, prevent life threatening complications of chronic disease and alleviate pain and suffering. Unfortunately medication can also cause harm. When this happens it is called an adverse drug reaction or event.

Adverse drug events are a large public health problem. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) they cause over 700,000 emergency department visits in the U.S. each year, resulting in nearly 120,000 patients needing to be hospitalized for further treatment. As more people take more medicines, the risk of adverse events may increase. Those 65 and older, typically on more medications, are twice as likely to have an adverse drug reaction and seven times more likely to be hospitalized because of it.

Some medication requires blood testing to make sure the patient is on the right dose. Over 40% of emergency visits which require patients to be hospitalized are caused by just a few of these medicines which require regular monitoring with blood tests. 

Common drugs that can require monitoring are:

• Blood thinners (e.g., warfarin)

• Diabetes medicines (e.g., insulin)

• Seizure medicines (e.g., phenytoin, carbamazepine, valproic acid)

• Heart medicine (e.g., digoxin)

When a patient is admitted to the hospital the risk of an adverse drug event does not go away, instead it can be magnified.  The importance of knowing what the patient has been taking will directly affect the treatment plan in the hospital.

One of the most challenging aspects of medication safety in the hospital involves ensuring that accurate information about a patient’s medications – what he or she is taking, when, and in what dose – travels with that patient throughout the health care system, and that any changes to that list are shared with other providers. This requires specific steps as well as clear roles and responsibilities. But the first challenge – and it can be a significant one – is getting the initial list of medications right.

An up-to-date medication list provides real-time information to health care providers at the point of both prescribing and dispensing to support informed, shared decision making about adding an additional medicine to a patients’ existing medicine regimen. It also creates an opportunity to conduct a medicine checkup to ensure that duplicate or unnecessary medicines are not being taken.

It is important that the list contain pertinent information, such as dosages and frequency of medications being taken by the individual. The simple remedy is to keep an updated medication list. This list can be hand-written or typed by the caregiver along with the participation of the individual, and should be confirmed with the general physicians who prescribe the medications. Unfortunately, in some cases, the list may have to be updated after each doctor’s appointment. The most important information on the list amounts to five different key points:

• Medications taken

• Exact medication dosage

• Frequency that the medication is taken

• The reason why the medication is being taken.

• The date that the list was last updated

When listing the medicines taken, be sure to include: prescription, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements.

Having an accurate medications list is important for the health care workers, but most importantly, it is beneficial for the person taking the medications. Being able to understand medications taken helps the patient feel like they are in the loop and in control of their own health care decisions. It is Important that a person knows what they are taking and why they are taking it. They should be able to explain to others the purpose of the treatments being received.  If the patient knows this information the incidence of adverse drug events is reduced significantly.

There are numerous resources available to help patients develop their own medication lists.  You can start creating a complete and accurate health profile by visiting

The following websites also offer templates for medications lists that can be downloaded.

• My Medication Record (National Association of Chain Drug Stores and APhA)

• How to Create a Pill Card (AHRQ)

• My Medicine List (American Society of Health-System Pharmacists); can be filled out electronically and saved to computer for printing out as needed

• My Personal Medication Record (AARP)

• My Medication Record (FDA)


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