Are you 100% sure that you’re taking your prescription drugs correctly? If not then be glad that you’re not alone. You may think that the instructions on the prescription bottle label are easy to follow but here’s some news for you: each year, almost half a million Americans misinterpret the instructions on the prescription bottle label. The difficulty in interpreting the instructions is largely due to the prescription labels being written inappropriately.
You may or may not know this but more than a million preventable medication errors occur each year. The majority of these mistakes occur outside of the hospital where patients have to depend on their own ability to interpret and follow the instructions on the prescription bottle. According to studies, in outpatient setting, half of the adults misunderstand at least some of the prescription bottle’s labels. A good way to prevent this is drafting the labels with the help of a prescription bottle label template. You can easily find the template online. In addition to the aforementioned template, you can find the template of many medical forms online including progress notes template.
Many health experts believe that the biggest reason for the aforementioned problems is health literacy. According to them, even people who graduated from professional schools have difficulty understanding the medical terms used by healthcare professionals. Generally, doctors scribble a few numbers and letters onto a prescription pad. These numbers and letters must then be translated into easy- to understand instructions by a pharmacist. Finally, the words translated by the pharmacist are typed onto the label on the prescription bottle.
Often, when doctors instruct patients to take a drug twice a day, pharmacists choose to write ‘twice a day’, ‘once in the morning and once in the evening’, ‘every 12 hours’, or similar instructions. However, it is seen that patients appreciate and understand more specific instructions. Also, it is seen that more specific instructions increase the effectiveness of patient drug labels.
Now, you may be wondering what more specific instructions refer to. Well, if a doctor writes specific instructions such as a ‘1 tablet in the morning and 1 tablet in the night, 12 hours apart’ then patients will be find the instructions on the label easy to follow. On the other hand, ‘twice a day’ is vague and not associated with any time frame. This type of instruction may cause some people to take a drug at say, 7:00 am and then again at 2:00 pm, and then wait another 19 hours until they take another dose.
Prescription writing is something that worries many medical students today. When learning how to write a prescription, they waste and tear up a lot of paper. So, why do they worry so about prescription writing? Medical students aren’t confident about prescription writing because this area of the medical field isn’t covered well at medical schools. The reason for this is simple: there is so much to learn during the 4/5 of medical schools that schools have little time or energy to spend on prescription writing. However, they don’t realize that prescription writing is one of the most things to cover in medical schools. The failure of medical schools to focus on prescription writing is one of the reasons so many medication errors occur today. Following are some interesting stat related to this:
- 1 in every five doses given in hospitals has medication errors
- 1 error per patient occurs each day
- Medication-related errors cause more than a million injuries and nearly seven thousand deaths in the United States each year
- In the United States, the estimated cost of drug-related mortality and morbidity is over $150 billion
If you want to ensure that your patients don’t suffer any harm then you should do your utmost to avoid prescription errors. To ensure this, you need to start with the basics. Let’s take a look at what a prescription refers to and what’s the role of the doctor and the pharmacist in preparing it.
An order written by a doctor or by a medical student with a signature by a physician, a prescription informs pharmacists about the medication a particular patient needs to take. The most basic type of prescription includes the name of the patient and another piece of information that identifies him/her such as the date of birth. Moreover, it includes information related to the medication including its strength, the amount to be taken and the frequency of taking it. Often, a symptom for when they need to be taken is included in the prescription for ‘as needed’ medications. Additionally, the person writing the prescription lists down the amount to be given and the number of refills required.
Once the aforementioned things have been included in the prescription, the physician needs to complete the prescription with a signature and other identifiers like DEA number or NPI number. After this is done, the prescription is taken to the pharmacist who interprets everything that’s been written to prepare the medication for the patient. Following is how doctors need to prepare the prescription for the pharmacist.
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) advises that the various clinical situations should include at least two patient identifiers. As far as prescription writing is concerned, the two patient identifiers that you must include in the prescription are the name and date of birth of the patient. To write a prescription, the name and DOB of the patient are the first things that you need. By doing this, you will ensure that a patient’s prescription doesn’t go missing in case it falls out of your coat and onto the floor in the cafeteria.
This is the easiest part of the prescription. You simply need to list down the medication you want to prescribe to a patient. Unless you specifically want to prescribe the brand name, it makes little difference whether you write the generic or the brand name here. Also, if you don’t want the brand name, you need to tell clearly inform the pharmacist that you don’t want any generics. There are many reasons for you to do this but we won’t get into the detail of things. You can check a small box on the prescription pad to indicate that you want ‘no generics’ or ‘brand name only’. If you’re finding this difficult to understand then you can take a look at a prescription pad template online. In addition to this template, you will other useful medical templates online including treatment plan and patient registration form template.
A doctor should inform the pharmacist about the desired strength after writing down the name of the medication. It is important for you to note that many of the medications come in multiple strengths. You need to specify to the pharmacist which strength you want. Often, the exact strength required by doctors isn’t available. In such situations, the pharmacists use the appropriate alternative. For example, if you write a 100 mg prescription of a medication but the pharmacy only has 50 mg tables then the pharmacist will prescribe the 50mg tablets and adjust the dose to 2 tabs to meet the required strength.
Using the previous example, the tab is the amount of the specific medication and strength to take. Once again, using the same example, if required, you should re- write the instructions as medication X 50 mg, 2 tabs…” Here, the ‘one tab’ initially written was changed to ‘two’. These changes are made by pharmacists all the time, often without consulting the doctor.
Till this point, we’ve been using plain English for prescriptions. The route is when a doctor first uses Latin or English abbreviations. However, you need to keep in mind that writing the prescription is plain English without any abbreviations is recommended as this reduces the chances of medication errors. Following is an example of both. You can decide for yourself which one is the best.
You can take the medication via several routes: Subcutaneously (SQ), By Mouth (PO), Intravenously (IV), Per Rectum (PR), Intramuscularly (IM) and Sublingually (SL). You can clearly see that the abbreviations are either from Latin roots or have a combination of letters from the English word. Unfortunately, many of these abbreviations many look similar if you’re in a hurry and scribble these prescriptions. For example, intramuscularly is often abbreviated as IM, which when you’re in a hurry, can be mistake for IV or IN. Following are some of the common route abbreviations used by doctors:
- TP (topical)
- PO (by mouth)
- Intravenously (IV)
- Per Rectum (PR)
- Intramuscularly (IM)
- Sublingually (SL)
- ID (intradermal)
- BUCC (buccal)
The final thing on the prescription is the frequency. How often you want the prescription to be taken is what the frequency refers to. The frequency can be anywhere from once a night, once a day, twice a day or even once a week. Frequencies generally begin with ‘Q’. A Letter from the Latin language, Q means once. If you want to reduce medication errors, you should write the frequency as ‘every other day’ or ‘daily’.
Prescriptions written by doctors allow pharmacists to draft prescription bottle label instructions that are easy to interpret and understand. This in turn helps to reduce medication errors. All of this ultimately helps to reduce the number of injuries and deaths that occur due to prescription mistakes each year. A good way for doctors to avoid these mistakes and ensure easily understandable label instructions is using a prescription label template.