study explores how to cut down on medication errors in hospitals ii

In our last post, we discussed how a group of researchers set out to determine whether they could lower the rate of mistakes in the medication reconciliation efforts at one Chicago-based hospital by having pharmacists oversee the entire process.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of the medication reconciliation effort, it is essentially the process in which hospital officials conduct a comprehensive medication review upon admission and discharge of a patient.

During the first stage of their involvement, the pharmacists first took the time to review the medical histories of incoming patients in the emergency department to identify evidence of possible medication errors, undisclosed medications, and non-evidence based treatments.

After conducting this initial review, the pharmacists would then meet with the patients to discuss their histories and determine whether it was necessary to contact their pharmacy, physician’s office or family members for more complete information.

From there, the pharmacists would enter their initial assessments in both electronic medical records and paper charts, and updated the patients’ records throughout their time in the hospital. This meant providing progress notes detailing medication changes and recommendations for medication changes or adjustments upon discharge.

Upon conclusion of the study, which ran from September 2012 to March 2013, the researchers crunched the numbers and arrived at some very eye-opening conclusions:

  • Prior to the involvement of the pharmacists, complete and accurate medication reconciliation efforts at the hospital occurred only 32.3 percent of the time at admission and 16.7 percent of the time at discharge. Once the study commenced, this number jumped to 50 percent at admission and 25 percent at discharge 
  • At its conclusion, 94.2 percent of medication reconciliations were accurate at the time of admission. However, the analysis did not include a final discharge percentage. 
  • Prior to the involvement of the pharmacists, medication reconciliation errors averaged 2.94 per patient at admission and 4.2 at discharge. Once the study commenced, the rate fell to .92 at admission and 2.92 at discharge, while at its conclusion, the rate fell even further to .07 per patient at admission. Again though, final discharge data was not provided.

“When it comes to medication reconciliation, who better to lead the initiative than the experts in the medication field: pharmacists,” said one of the primary authors of the study.

We can only hope that hospitals here in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation take note of these altogether encouraging findings and strongly consider adding more pharmacists to staff to perform medication reconciliation efforts.

In the meantime, those hurt by medication errors should strongly consider speaking with an experienced attorney to learn more about their rights and their options.

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

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