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Monday, May 10, 2021

Patient, Drug, Dose, Route, and Time: A Guide to the ‘5 Rs’ of Medication Safety

I'll admit, I used to be pretty anti meds, but now I take 8 pills daily for both my mental and physical health and I wouldn't have it any other way. (Ok, I would prefer to not need them, but since I do, I'm glad I have them to help me instead of suffering without.) But as much as I enjoy having meds available, there are some things that are important to keep in mind when taking meds so that it is safe. Here are some thoughts on this from a reader.


With its wonders in treating illnesses and preventing diseases, medicine has proven useful to many life forms but most especially to us. For this reason, medication use among households has significantly increased throughout the years. However, along with this widespread availability comes the alarming hazards and errors when administering medicine.

Without basic knowledge about its proper use, this may lead to various medication errors that might cause further complications for the patient. To help reduce or even eliminate this risk and other errors, it is highly recommended to follow the “Five Rights of Medication Administration.”

Even before a person gets his or her professional license as a registered nurse, they are taught with these five rights. In the hospital setting, each medicating nurse practices these five rights. With that said, the five rights of medication are: Right patient, Right drug, Right dose, Right Route, and finally, Right Time. Even if you aren’t in a hospital setting, and are giving meds at home to your kids, abiding by these rights can be a very good practice. Here’s a more in-depth look at these five rights:

Identify the right patient.

Before you can administer medication, you first have to make sure that the person who will receive the drugs is, indeed, the one being treated. 

When you're doing this at home it can also be important to check that you're giving the right kids the right medicine. Because come on, moms mix up their kids' names and sometimes when we're extra tired we can get confused (don't tell me you never put your phone in the freezer), so make sure you are actually giving the meds to the correct kid.

In a professional setting, it is important to keep in mind that many sick people are admitted to the hospital, and for health practitioners such as nurses, it can be confusing to know whom the medicine is for.

Therefore, it is essential that they confirm the patient’s identity through various means like asking the patient’s full name directly or checking their medical wristbands. In psychiatric cases where they have no way of knowing whether the patient is telling the truth about his/her identity or the information in their armbands is correct, they are advised to find alternative means with due diligence.

Take note of the right drug prescription.

After identifying the right patient, the next step is verifying whether the medication to be administered matches the one prescribed by the doctor. Poorly written medication orders and abbreviations usually lead to confusion that greatly account for any wrong purchases. Make sure that you consult with your doctor first or appropriate health professional.

Also, make sure that you have the correct pill bottle and/or pill box, because different medications can be confusing and you want to make sure you have the right one.

Due to the high cost of purchasing medicine, most people opt to buy their generic brand names. According to the FDA, generic medications are just as effective as brand-name ones, and they are generally cheaper. However, many pharmaceutical industries now accept prescription discount cards.

This gives you the chance to buy the prescribed branded medicine without considering the high cost because you can now purchase them at a discounted price. The best thing about them is that it is available for you whether you have health insurance or not. You can get your free RX discount card in BuzzRx. Check their website for more details.

Remember the right dosage.

Knowing the exact dosage of medicine is essential in terms of patient care. Even if you have the right patient and give the exact medication, it can still lead to medication administration mistakes if you’re not too careful about its measurement.

Inaccurate dosage, incorrect substance concentration, and wrong unit conversion can lead to harmful side effects. In very rare cases, it might even lead to a drug overdose. When it comes to medicine, it doesn’t hurt to be more meticulous than you usually are.

In this case, you have to pay close attention to the label, making sure that you double-check the prescribed dosage that you need to administer to the patient. For liquid medications, using a dosing cup or syringe can help.

And if you or your kids changed dosages of a specific medication, check that you are actually giving/taking the correct pills and not the old prescription.

Ensure that the medication is administered via the right route.

Medicine is given to patients in different ways. The most common ones include oral (usually in the form of tablets or capsules that are to be swallowed), intravenous (the substance is injected directly into the vein), intramuscular (delivers the medicine deep into your muscles), or subcutaneous injections (injecting under the skin). Can't forget the mom favorite- suppositories. Babies just love them.

However, there are much more modern, not to mention complicated routes of administration than those mentioned above. Medical professionals should be able to equip you with instructions regarding medication administration to ensure that medicine is safely delivered to and correctly taken by patients at home.

Be mindful of taking medicine on time.

Along with the medicine prescription, doctors also include the time and frequency of taking medicine. You must follow this or take medicine as close to the prescribed time as possible to avoid adverse chemical reactions. You can follow these tips to help you remember when to take or give the medicine: 

Make a medication log.

Your medication log should include a checklist of the kind of medicine you are taking, the specific time you should take it, and the frequency (once a day, twice a day, and so on). Make sure that you mark the list once the medicine is given.

Set your alarm.

Putting your phones on alarm can be a great method to help you keep track of the time and remind you when to take or administer the medicine to the patient.

Keep your medicine visible.

Most people forget to take their medicine because they haven’t seen them at the counter. This ‘out of sight, out of mind’ situation can be avoided if you put them in areas where they can be easily spotted. 

Use a pill box.
If you sometimes can get a little absentminded, you might forget if you took your medication or not, and accidentally might take twice the dosage, or might not take it at all because you're afraid of taking a double dose. By keeping your medication in a weekly pill box, you can be able to be sure if you took your medication or not.

In Conclusion

Knowing the five rights can guide you in a much safer medication practice. Though it is emphasized that healthcare professionals follow these principles when medicating, it is also recommended that you equip yourself with this basic knowledge to help you know what to do when someone from your beloved family falls sick.

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