Communication failures lead to rampant discharge medication errors

Three out of four patients are going home with the wrong prescriptions or don't understand their medications, according to a Yale-New Haven Hospital study.

Eighty-one percent of senior patients with heart failure, acute coronary syndrome or pneumonia at the hospital experienced a provider error in discharge medications (24 percent) or didn't understand at least one medication change (60 percent), the Connecticut Health I-Team reported.

Such findings indicate "the vast majority of our patients [are] going home at potential risk," Leora Horwitz, assistant professor medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, said in the article. "We do a relatively poor job of educating patients about their medications."

According to Dan Flynn, codirector of the transitional care program, Connecticut Community Care ComPass2C, patients are unintentionally not adhering to their medications because they lack sufficient instructions.

But it's not only provider-patient communication that can result in errors. An Annals of Internal Medicine study last month found that provider-pharmacy communication also can lead to medication mistakes. Researchers looked at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates ambulatory patients who received medications from a HVMA pharmacy and found that when physicians discontinued a patient's medication, most physician offices failed to transmit that information to the pharmacy.

Researchers called for better communication between providers and pharmacies, suggesting electronic health records facilitate medication safety.

For more information:
- read the Connecticut Health I-Team article in the New Hampshire Register
- here's the Annals of Internal Medicine study

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