Thursday, July 24, 2014

Prescription Medication Error Medical Malpractice

According to a recent Yale-New Haven Hospital study, 3 out of 4 patients leave the hospital with either the wrong prescriptions or a lack of understanding about their medications.  

The chief researcher, Dr. Leora Horwitz, who also practices at the hospital, said healthcare providers “do a relatively poor job of educating patients about their medications.”  

Medical malpractice mistakes involving medication errors injuring more than 1.3 million persons a year.  

The study looked at 377 Yale-New Haven Hospital patients, ages 64 and older, who had been admitted with heart failure, acute coronary syndrome or pneumonia, then discharged to home.  

Of that group, 307 patients - - 81% - - either experienced a provider error in their discharge medications or had no understanding of at least one intended medication change.  

“We’re talking about the vast majority of our patients going home at potential risk” of medication problems, Horwitz said. “That’s huge. Collectively, something is not right.”  

The Yale study relied on interviews with patients after discharge, who were asked about their medication regimen. The researchers also reviewed patients’ admission and discharge medication records to see if all changes were intentional, or if any appeared to be errors.

Other study findings include:

•24% of medication changes were due to provider error.

•The average patient had no understanding of 60% of all stopped, re-dosed and new medications.

•Errors and misunderstanding were more common for medications not related to patient’s primary diagnosis than for those related to main ailment being treated.

•The electronic medical records system used at Yale and other hospitals makes it hard to track and reconcile medication changes.

•Patient discharge lists don’t flag which prescriptions are new and which have been stopped.

•Patients at many hospitals get a quick drug rundown from a nurse before discharge, but not a thorough review that ensures they understand the medications. 

Dr. Horowitz recounted a horror story in which one of her patients switched to a new beta blocker for high blood pressure during an inpatient hospital stay.  She landed back in the hospital after discharge when she took both the new medication and her old beta blocker – a combination that lowered her heart rate and blood pressure to dangerous levels.  

Medical malpractice errors – including prescription mistakes – are responsible for up to 98,000 wrongful deaths in American hospitals each year.  

The full Yale-New Haven Hospital is at:

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