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Do your patients know how to properly dispose of medications?

According to a recently released Patient Safety Report, Americans are confident that the medical care they receive is safe and follows proper protocols. In fact, nearly all Americans surveyed (91 percent) who sought medical attention at a doctor’s office, hospital, urgent care or other medical facility in the last year agree that their medical professional followed protocols that made them feel safe and protected.

Among the 1,200 U.S. patients surveyed by Stericycle, Inc., an overwhelming majority agreed that safety protocols were followed and felt confident that their medical professional:

  • Took the time to make sure they understood medications they were prescribed (91 percent)
  • Took the time to explain care/medication follow-up instructions (93 percent)
  • Routinely washed their hands, wore gloves, and took precautionary sanitary measures (94 percent)
  • Administered shots or drew blood by putting on a fresh pair of gloves before starting the process (94 percent), cleaning the site for injection (89 percent), and disposing of syringes in a red sharps container (84 percent)
  • Had access to and used medical waste bins to dispose of medical waste (92 percent)
  • Was genuinely concerned about their health or well-being (94 percent)

Patients unclear on how to dispose of medications

While patients are confident in their medical professionals’ ability to provide safe care, the Patient Safety Report revealed new safety issues for patients and providers to consider. The study found that patients still lack understanding of how to handle or dispose of their unused prescriptions, which is problematic for preventing opioid abuse and improper waste disposal as more than one in four (26 percent) patients admitted they were prescribed a prescription painkiller, such as Vicodin, Oxycodone, etc., over the last year.

Nearly half (48 percent) U.S. patients agree that their medical professional explained how to properly dispose of prescription medication. However, one in 10 patients disagree that they know how to properly dispose of prescription medication, and this lack of understanding has led patients to create potential public safety risks by:

  • Flushing medication down the toilet (17 percent)
  • Throwing it away in the trash/garbage (16 percent)
  • Holding onto unused prescriptions (17 percent)

“We commend our healthcare partners for creating safe, clean, and medically sound experiences for patients. It’s clear that patients notice and value the steps medical providers take for safety,” said Cindy Miller, President and CEO Elect of Stericycle, Inc. “However, we do see an opportunity and need our society to continue providing safe disposal options as well as educating patients on how to handle and dispose of leftover opioids. This is another critical step that communities, medical professionals, and lawmakers should consider to help stop the spread of opioids.”

For more information about Stericycle and The Patient Safety Report, click here to visit the report page.

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