Ask five questions to ensure medication safety

By Cecilia Nasmith

Northumberland Hills Hospital is joining forces with the Canadian Patient Safety Institute in recognizing Oct. 29 to Nov. 2 as Canadian Patient Safety Week.

This year's theme is Not All Meds Get Along, and the public-awareness campaign behind it is designed to prompt patients and health-care professionals alike to ask questions – and, if required, initiate medication reviews (especially in those cases where someone takes five or more medications).

The NHH press release reminds everyone that medication errors can result in severe harm, disability and even death.

“While multiple measures are in place to minimize the risk of medication errors in hospitals for patients who require multiple medications, or who may be transitioning between treatments or treatment locations, safety is a heightened concern,” the bulletin said.

“Everyone – including patients themselves, their caregivers and the health providers who care for them – can play a role in ensuring medication safety.”

This concern has led to the Canadian Patient Safety Institute teaming up with the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada, Patients for Patient Safety Canada, the Canadian Pharmacists Association and the Canadian Society for Hospital Pharmacists to create a simple five-question checklist to help patients and their caregivers have a conversation about medications with their healthcare provider.

1 – Changes? Have any medications been added, stopped or changed, and why?

2 – Continue? What medications do I need to keep taking, and why?

3 – Proper use? How do I take my medications, and for how long?

4 – Monitor? How will I know if my medication is working, and what side effects do I watch for?

5 – Follow up? Do I need any tests, and when do I book my next visit?

The CPSI recommends posing these five questions when attending a doctor's appointment, when interacting with a community pharmacist, when leaving the hospital upon discharge, and when receiving a visit by home-care services. A downloadable copy of these questions, as well as further information, can be found at,

Northumberland Hills Hospital director of quality Rohan Gonsalves said they are proud to be part of the five-questions initiative.

“As part of our on-going commitment to high quality, safe care, we’re recommending that everyone learn these five questions, and help spread awareness by sharing them with their loved ones,” he added.

Patients and their care givers are further reminded to keep medication records complete and up-to-date, including information on any drug allergies, as well as information on any non-prescription products (including vitamins and minerals and herbal or natural products). A current list of any medications taken on a regular basis, (or the medications themselves) and any other important medical information such as allergies should be taken to all NHH appointments, including (when possible) emergency-department visits.