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March 4, 2009 > A Prescription for Patient Safety

A Prescription for Patient Safety

Patient Safety Awareness Week, observed this year March 8 through 14, is a national education and awareness-building campaign for improving patient safety both within healthcare organizations and at home. As part of our efforts to improve awareness of patient safety concerns, Washington Hospital will provide patient information tables in the lobby throughout the week. The hospital also will conduct a variety of educational programs and activities for hospital staff.

In keeping with the theme of this year's campaign - "A Prescription for Patient Safety: One Partnership, One Team" - Washington Hospital will be emphasizing medication safety.

"Medication safety is one of the National Patient Safety Goals," says Kris LaVoy, R.N., Washington Hospital Chief of Compliance. "Preventing medication errors requires a team effort between healthcare providers and their patients. We encourage all of our patients to ask their healthcare providers about any medicines that are prescribed, including the purpose of the medications and potential side effects."

Another important aspect of medication safety is making sure your healthcare providers know about all the medications you are currently taking to avoid any potential adverse drug interactions.

"You should compile a complete list of all medications you are taking and keep the list with you at all times, but especially when you are going to the doctor's office or the hospital," says Nasim Karmali, RPh, Washington Hospital Medication Safety Officer.

"The list should include not only the names of the medications, but also the dosage and how often you take them," she adds. "It's important to include any over-the-counter medicines, nutritional supplements and herbs that you use because they carry the risk of adverse interactions with prescription medications. You also should be sure to note any medication allergies you may have."

Karmali also recommends periodically reviewing your list of medications with your physician or pharmacist and clearing old or expired medications out of your medicine cabinets.

"People who want to dispose of old and outdated over-the-counter medications and prescriptions can place them in the containers available year-round in the hospital lobby and in the library in the 2500 Mowry Avenue building," she notes. "Disposing of outdated medications in this way eliminates the temptation to take them, removes a potential hazard for children and protects the environment - medications should never be flushed down the toilet or washed down the kitchen sink."

While medication safety is the primary focus of this year's Patient Safety Awareness Week, LaVoy stresses that other factors also contribute to overall patient safety. "There are a variety of other National Patient Safety Goals in addition to medication safety," she explains. "Some examples include reducing the risks of infection and of falls. These goals and related guidelines have been developed in response to actual events, to try to prevent such events from recurring."

Washington Hospital has taken a number of steps in recent years to address patient safety concerns, including the development of a Rapid Response Team of nurses who specialize in making critical assessments when a patient's condition changes. "One of our goals was to enable our staff members to get help early if a patient's condition worsens," LaVoy says. "Hospital patients and their families or loved ones can even initiate the process themselves by calling the hospital operator and asking that the Rapid Response Team be called."

Every patient who is admitted to Washington Hospital is given a brochure, "Please Ask... About Your Care," that encourages them to ask questions whenever they are concerned about any aspect of their care.

"Patients need to be proactive and ask the right questions so that we can work together to ensure patient safety," LaVoy says. "As we note in the brochure, research shows that patients and families who are actively involved with their team of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers have safer care and better outcomes."

For additional information resources on patient safety issues, visit the National Patient Safety Foundation's Web site at

Safely Dispose Your Old Medications

In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of improper disposal of medication, Washington Hospital has partnered with the Union Sanitary District to offer Tri-City area residents a convenient, safe and environmentally sound option for disposing of old medications.

Listed below are the five Washington Hospital permanent public disposal sites available to Tri-City area residents. Below is a list of the permanent drop-off sites:

Washington Hospital - Main Lobby, 2000 Mowry Avenue, Fremont
* Washington Hospital Community Health Resource Library - 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West), Fremont
* WTMG at Nakamura Clinic - 33077 Alvarado Niles Rd, Union City
* WTMG at Newark - 35500 Dumbarton Court, Newark
* WTMG at Warm Springs - 46690 Mohave Drive, Fremont

For more information about the environmental impact of flushing medications or for facts about recycling, visit and

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