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75 percent of discharged patients have wrong meds

A new Yale study on medication errors found that three-quarters of all patients discharged from hospitals do not understand the instructions for taking the prescriptions or are given the wrong medications. The senior patients with heart problems or pneumonia were most likely to have issues, with 24 percent of them receiving a wrong prescription and 60 percent misunderstanding one or more medication changes.

These mistakes can stem from misunderstandings on the part of patients due to poor communication or lack of education about the use of certain drugs. They can also come from poor communication between the provider and the pharmacy. For example, many physicians who change a patient's prescriptions fail to notify the pharmacy of the discontinuance of the old medication, thereby opening the door to overmedication errors.

Electronic recordkeeping may help to eliminate some of the provider and pharmacy communication issues. However, these electronic strategies do little to help the patients who are struggling to understand sometimes complicated medication schedules or how certain products or over-the-counter drugs may interact with their prescriptions.

It is the responsibility of health care providers to educate their patients about medications, their possible side effects and their possible interactions with other drugs or foods. If healthcare providers fail to give patients the proper information about their medications or make errors in prescribing drugs, these providers may be liable for the injuries that result. If a patient becomes ill, suffers permanent physical damage, or dies from a medication error, the health care provider may be liable for these damages. A personal injury attorney can advise victims of their rights in these situations.

Source: Fierce Healthcare, "Communication failures lead to rampant discharge medication errors," Karen Cheung-Larivee, Dec. 4, 2012

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