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Patient Safety Tips

The Academy of Sciences is calling for new vigilance in patient safety because of what it calls a "stunningly high" rate of medical errors. On The Early Show, Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay shares some tips on one aspect of patient safety, the potential for prescription drug errors.

It's estimated that 7,000 Americans die each year as a result of "medication errors" which include the prescribing or dispensing of the wrong drug.

The study said, for example, pharmacists often had difficulty deciphering the handwriting of doctors who prescribe drugs.

The names of the following medications can be confusing even for medical professionals as well as for patients. Celebrex, Cerebyx and Celexa are three prescription drugs that are meant for arthritis, seizures and depression, respectively.

While it's unclear if or when the federal government will take action to protect consumers, some the doctors say patients need to be more proactive.

There are at least two opportunities to catch or avoid prescription errors outside the hospital.

Demanding Medical Excellence
The first opportunity is when you are given the prescription by the doctor, the second is when it is filled by the pharmacist.

You should know that 42 states have laws that require pharmacists to counsel you about a prescription if you have any questions at the time it is given.

We have all heard much about handwriting mistakes. They do occur. But here are some questions you can ask to avoid mistakes.

What Is The Medication For
What Is It Supposed To Do
What Is The Dosage
What Foods Should I Avoid
What Are The Side Effects

If you are hospitalized there are several important things you can do to protect yourself or a loved one from errors.

The first is to make sure you have an advocate with yo at all times. If you can't do it yourself, make sure someone asks the same set of questions.

The most important piece of advice when it comes to patient safety is to take responsibility, and be assertive.

The patient is the consumer. So make sure you understand what your doctors are telling you.

Hospital Smarts

When it comes to prescriptions, don't be afraid to say, "I want to speak to the pharmacist."

And finally, it's a good idea to invest in a drug guide for the home and use it.

For more information on the report visit "Halting Deadly Hospital Gaffes."

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