Heart patients make medication mistakes after hospital discharge

New research has found that a majority of patients either misunderstand medication instructions or take them incorrectly after being discharged from the hospital.

A team of researchers from the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System in Nashville recruited 471 men and women with an average age of 59 who were hospitalized for heart failure, heart attacks and related heart conditions, after which they were discharged. All participants were asked to take a health literacy test—which tested knowledge of basic health information and the ability to interpret and act on such information. Two to three days after the patients were discharged they were contacted by the researchers regarding how they were taking their medications.

The researchers then recorded how many errors—defined in the study as taking a medication not on the list of what the doctor prescribed, forgetting to mention one that was on the list, failing to refill a prescription, discontinuing use of a medication or not being aware of a medication—and how many misunderstandings—defined as a patient not knowing the purpose, dose or frequency of a medication—occurred.

The researchers found that more than 50 percent of the patients had a misunderstanding when it came to the purpose, dose or frequency of their medications, and more than half had at least one discrepancy between the medications they reported taking and the ones that their doctors had prescribed. They also found that the participants who scored highest on the health literacy test were about 16 percent less likely to make an error when compared to those who scored the lowest.

The study suggests that a better understanding is needed when it comes to discharging patients from the hospital, along with the associated risks of the discharge, researchers said. They added that administering a brief health literacy test might help identify patients who might have the most trouble following instructions regarding medications.

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Sourced from: Reuters, Medication errors may be common after hospital discharge