Half of heart patients make medication errors despite counseling

Half of heart patients make medication errors within a month of being discharged from the hospital, according to a study conducted by Vanderbilt University Hospital in Tennessee and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, published earlier this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Of the 50 percent who made errors, nearly a quarter (23 percent) were considered to be serious errors, and 1.8 percent were deemed to be potentially life-threatening, U.S. News & World Report noted.

The study found even highly educated patients made serious medication errors, as did patients who were given guidance and individualized instructions by a pharmacist, according to MedPage Today. Patients who received a follow-up phone call from their physicians post-discharge didn't reduce the number of mistakes, the data showed. Despite intervention by pharmacists and medical staff, these frequent errors are cause for concern.

Clinicians and pharmacists continue to look for ways to reduce medication errors in heart patients. Adam Auerbach, director of inpatient cardiac services at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., said hospitals must implement programs that ensure patients understand how and when to taken their medication.

"We are looking at a 'teach-back' program where we each teach patients about their medications and then they teach it back to us," Auerbach said. Auerbach also is in favor of a program in which a medical professional pays a house-call to patients within 72 hours of their discharge to determine whether they are taking their medication correctly, U.S. News & World Report reported.  

A number of factors may be contributing to medication noncompliance, including high costs of prescriptions and some patients' lack of a social support system. The American Heart Association recommended that patients be given explicit verbal and written instructions prior to their discharge to reduce patient confusion regarding their medications.  

To learn more:
- read the U.S. News & World Report article
- check out  MedPage Today article
- see the study