Most patients are relieved to get out of the hospital. However, studies
confirm that the risk of medication error can actually increase after
patients are discharged.
The problem is that home health agencies, rehabilitation centers, and nursing
homes, which are charged with helping patients continue to get better,
often miss potential medication errors. As detailed in a
recent Kaiser Health News article, the mistakes can be deadly.
Within two weeks of being discharged from the hospital, Joyce Oyler developed
sores in her mouth and throat, and blood began seeping from her nose and
bowels. Instead of taking a drug to prevent fluid retention related to
her congestive heart failure, she had been taking a toxic drug with a
similar name that is used to treat cancer and severe arthritis.
“I gathered all her medicine, and as soon as I saw that bottle, I
knew she couldn’t come back from this,” said Oyler’s
daughter, Kristin Sigg, an oncology nurse. “There were many layers
and mistakes made after she left the hospital. It should have been caught
about five different ways.”
medication errors are one of the most common complications after hospital discharge. Even more concerning, a Kaiser Health News analysis
of inspection records found that the mistakes are frequently missed by
home health agencies.
Kaiser found that, between January 2010 and July 2015, Medicare inspectors
flagged 3,016 home health agencies that had inadequately reviewed or tracked
medications for new patients. In some cases, nurses failed to realize
that patients were taking potentially dangerous combinations of drugs,
putting them at risk for abnormal heart rhythms, bleeding, kidney damage,
In the case of Joyce Oyler, the subsequent investigation into the fatal
medical error revealed that mistakes were made by several people involved
in her care. The pharmacy technician likely transcribed the medications
incorrectly, and then the pharmacist failed to detect that two similarly
sounding drugs had been confused. Later, the home health aide, who was
supposed to match Oyler’s medications against those prescribed by
the hospital, also failed to discoverer the deadly mix-up.
“Most people don’t know this is a problem,” Sigg said.
“They assume doctors are talking to each other, until they experience
it, and it’s not the case.”
If you or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to medication
error or serious hospital discharge mistake, you may be entitled to compensation.
For more information, please contact
a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage
for a free consultation.