Why Patients Are at Risk of Medication Errors During Hospital Discharge

Medication errors can have deadly effectsMedication errors are an increasingly common threat to patients being discharged from hospitals. Four years ago, researchers at Harvard Medical School conducted a study on medication errors and hospital discharges. Researchers used 851 hospital patients undergoing treatment for heart disease to assess the scope of the problem.

Half of the patients experienced medication errors during the first month after being discharged. In addition, 23 percent of these errors were deemed ‘serious’ and another 2 percent were life-threatening. We can use a recent example to discuss how patients and their families are hurt by medication errors.

Kaiser Health News recently published a sad story describing the death of a patient who was discharged with the incorrect medication. According to the patient’s daughter, who is an oncology nurse, her mother began to experience mouth sores and other serious side effects after arriving home from the hospital. The hospital had given her a toxic drug with a similar-sounding name to the one she was supposed to receive, and she later died as a result of the mistake.

Can Hospitals Prevent Medication Errors During Discharge?

The Harvard Medical School study discovered medication errors during discharge could be prevented with better communication. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists could spend more time explaining the details of new medication regimens to patients or families. The study also recommended that health care providers ensure that patients and their families understand what is being discussed, and argued that regular follow-ups after discharge could catch medication errors.

Medication errors during discharge are preventable, but it will take more diligence on the part of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.


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