Study: Patients Failing to Get Proper Medication Education Upon Discharge

A recent study conducted at Yale-New Haven Hospital shows that there is much confusion around medication instructions given to many patients upon discharge. As a result of the misunderstanding, many have experienced medical problems or subsequently readmitted to the hospital.

The study looked at 377 patients, ages 64 and older who were admitted to Yale-New Haven Hospital. The participants were admitted for heart failure, acute coronary syndrome or pneumonia and later discharged.

According to the data, 81 percent of participants encountered problems with their medication. Specifically, out of the 377 patients, 307 of them were sent home with an incorrect prescription or lacked an understanding of their medication or the change of their medication.

The data was gathered from interviews conducted with the patients about their medications after discharge, information from patients’ files, and patients’ discharge medication records.

To some medical professionals, the results of the study are not surprising. Hospital readmission rates and adverse drug reactions that patients experienced when they were sent home are alarmingly high.

Dr. Leora Horwitz, lead researcher of the study and a practicing physician, says she has witnessed plenty of patients who fail to understand medication changes or instructions when they are sent home. She reports that one of her patients was given a new medication for high blood pressure prior to discharge. She was subsequently readmitted because she was taking both the old blood pressure medication and the new ones.

Reasons behind the problem

According to Dr. Horwitz, the reasons behind this phenomena are electronic medical records and poor patient education.

Electronic medical records fail to differentiate new versus changed or discontinued medications. Further, many patients aren’t given adequate instructions on their medication before being sent home. Instead they “get a quick drug rundown from a nurse before discharge.”

Dr. Horwitz argues that one possible solution would be to educate patients throughout their hospital stay rather than only at the time of their discharge from the hospital.

Remedying the situation

Fortunately, as a result of the study, New Haven Hospital is taking proactive measures to decrease medication mix-ups from occurring. Presently, they are implementing procedures to improve patient education. Additionally, the hospital says it also plans to roll out a new electronic records system this upcoming February.

Nine other hospitals within the state of Connecticut are also taking initiatives to prevent readmissions rates due to medication misunderstanding. The facilities that are participating include: Bristol Hospital, Hartford Hospital, John Dempsey Hospital, Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, MidState Medical Center, Saint Francis Hospital & Medical Center, the Hospital of Central Connecticut, William W. Backus Hospital and Windham Hospital.

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