Avoiding Lethal Medication Mishaps

Would you spend $25 for a little aluminum cylinder that could save your life?

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Would you spend $25 for a little aluminum cylinder that could save your life?

About 7,000 people a year die in hospitals because of medication errors, and the march toward one of these unnecessary tragedies usually begins with a communication gap. When patients are admitted, hospitals frequently have a terrible time finding out the drugs they were taking, because no matter how often we've been told that everybody should carry a list of their medications and dosages, most of us don't. So nurses have to spend hours on the phone with family members, coaxing them to check the medicine cabinet, or call a patient's pharmacy for help. Otherwise the patient might not receive a vital drug, or a deadly drug interaction might occur.

It doesn't help matters that when patients are transferred from one unit to another, the records of medications administered to them sometimes don't come along. The grim truth? You can't do a lot about that.

You can help a hospital know your drug regimen when you're admitted, however. Why people don't keep medication lists in their wallets is understandable—folded up, a sheet of paper is annoyingly bulky. Handwritten notes can be hard to write (and harder to read).

Enter Scroll I.D. After you fill out a form on the Web (www.scrollid.com) and place an order, you'll receive a cylinder about the size and shape of a lip balm container, with a clip for fastening to a belt loop or key chain. Tucked inside is a rolled-up, waterproof sheet with information you included—on medications, allergies, medical and surgical history, insurance, and other critical details. If there are changes, the price includes four updates at your discretion; additional ones are nominally priced.

I'm not going to mention a commercial product here very often, but this one seems more than worthwhile.