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Is Poor Communication to Blame for Hospital Medication Errors?

During hospitalization, existing medications are often terminated and new drugs are administered. As a result, the risk for a medication error is heightened. As San Diego medical malpractice lawyers, we are concerned by the results of a new study showing just how frequently they occur.

As the New Haven Register reports, researchers at Yale-New Haven Hospital interviewed 377 patients, ages 64 and older, who had been admitted with heart failure, acute coronary syndrome or pneumonia, then discharged to home. The researchers also examined the patients’ admission and discharge medication records to verify that any changes made were intentional.

Overall, they found that nearly 25 percent of patients were discharged with the wrong prescriptions. In addition, errors were more common for medications unrelated to the primary ailment or disease.

“Very often, we do a good job managing medications for the reason they’re in the hospital — what we do badly is managing the other stuff the patient was taking. . . We make mistakes in chronic disease management,” said Dr. Leora Horwitz.

The researchers also noted that the electronic medical records systems used by hospitals often make it difficult to monitor medication changes. In addition, discharge documentation often does not highlight which medications are have been started and which have been stopped.

Given the potential risks, we encourage patients to take an active role in their care and ask questions regarding any medications that will be taken upon discharge.