by Kathy Koester, RN

People come to EIRMC for many different reasons. Some hospital visits are planned ahead (surgery, chemotherapy, minor procedures) while many hospital visits are completely unexpected due to an accident, acute illness, or heart attack/stroke.

Imagine this scenario: a 65-year-old man is injured in a car accident. EMS personnel arrive on the scene. The man cannot speak. He is unable to tell EMS the medications he takes. He takes an anticoagulant at home - which puts him at greater risk for internal and external bleeding. In this situation, a home medication list in his wallet would provide critical and possibly life-saving information.

Even patients coming into the hospital for a planned procedure benefit from keeping a medication list handy. At EIRMC, we ask every patient about allergies and medications taken at home. For example, many patients will say, “I take a yellow pill for high blood pressure, a pink pill for diabetes, a white pill for cholesterol and another white pill for gout.”

For caregivers, it is extremely difficult to create an accurate medication list with this type of information. Yet, there are many reasons we need an accurate medication list: medication allergies, medication side effects, anticoagulant effects, diabetic medications, narcotic use. This information helps hospital staff avoid dangerous medication errors.

Nurses and physicians do their best to identify medications by asking friends/family to bring a list to the hospital, looking at past medical records (which may not be accurate because of medication changes by other healthcare providers since the last visit to the hospital), and even by contacting our patients’ pharmacies. This takes crucial time that could potentially result in a problem for a patient. In rare instances, knowing your medications can be a matter of life or death.

As a nurse, I tell my elderly parents and family to always keep an accurate medication list in their wallet, purse, and at home. When an unplanned event occurs, you are prepared.

Your current medication list should include:

  • All daily medications, doses, times you take the medication.
  • Vitamins, herbal medicines, and over the counter (OTC) products.

You should also update your medication list when changes are made by your healthcare provider, and remove any medications from the list that are stopped by your healthcare provider. Remember to put the updated medication list in your wallet, purse and at home, and give a copy to a trusted family member or friend.

We want to provide you with the best possible care in the timeliest fashion. By taking responsibility for keeping an accurate medication list, you will be helping improve your care. Remember, we want you to ask questions. It is the best way for your nurse, physician, and pharmacist to help you.

You can download a personal medication form here.