Patients taking a high number of prescription medications who are then unexpectedly admitted to hospital face a medication error rate of more than 50 per cent with their existing medications, one-third of which could result in more serious complications, says a new study by University of Toronto researchers.
Senior author Dr. Edward Etchells says he wasnt surprised by the high proportion of unintended medication errors. "In that kind of situation – where a patient is taking quite a few medicines, is acutely ill and possibly cognitively impaired, its very difficult to get an accurate medication use history. The most common mistake is to be unaware that the patient is taking a particular medicine, and there is no mechanism that would clue you into a potential problem," notes Etchells, a professor of medicine at U of T, director of the Patient Safety Service at Sunnybrook and Womens College Health Sciences Centre and internal medicine physician at the hospital.
The study, published in the Feb. 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, reports how researchers at U of T screened the medical charts of 523 patients admitted to a U of T-affiliated teaching hospital over a three-month period in 2003. Of that number, 151 patients were included in their study: to be included patients had to be taking at least four prescription medicines at home and their admission to hospital was unplanned. At the time of admission, the researchers reviewed these patients hospital charts to record medications prescribed by attending physicians. A member of the research team then conducted an interview with the patient or family and recorded a thorough medication history. It was then determined whether there were any discrepancies between what the patient reported during the interview and the medications that were prescribed after admission. All discrepancies were brought to the attention of the attending physician team, and changes were made as necessary.
Janet Wong | EurekAlert!
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