study explores how to cut down on medication errors in hospitals

When most of us envision medication errors, we inevitably think of our local pharmacy chain providing us with the wrong medication, wrong dosage or even the wrong instructions. While this is certainly accurate, it also perhaps overlooks another venue where medication errors occur at an alarmingly high rate: hospitals.

In hospital settings, these prescription errors typically occur during what is known as the medication reconciliation effort. This is essentially the process in which officials conduct a comprehensive medication review upon admission and discharge of a patient.

While this seemingly thorough practice would lead most people to believe that the rate of medication errors at hospitals was relatively low, this is not the case. Indeed, studies have shown that as many as 54 percent of all hospital patients are victimized by one or more mistakes in the medication reconciliation effort.

In recognition of this problem, a group of researchers set out to determine whether they could lower the rate of mistakes in medication reconciliation efforts at one Chicago-based hospital by increasing the active involvement of pharmacists in the process. This, however, would prove to be no easy task given that the hospital had errors in as many as 67 percent of all admission medication lists and 80 percent of all discharge medication lists.

As part of the study, the researchers had pharmacists oversee the entire medication reconciliation effort from admission to discharge in the emergency department of the hospital from September 2012 to March 2013.

The first stage of the medication reconciliation effort involved having these pharmacists take the time to review the medical histories of incoming patients to identify any and all evidence of possible medication errors, undisclosed medications, and non-evidence based treatments.

To be continued …

Hard as it may be to believe, medication errors occur with alarming frequency. When they do and a patient suffers unnecessarily, someone can and should held accountable in a court of law.

Source: Medpage Today, “Fewer errors in in-hospital meds if pharmacists are involved,” Sarah Wickline, Dec. 11, 2013

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