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Heart patient medication errors common after hospital stay

Patients are dependent upon Chicago physicians and pharmacists for correct prescription drugs and dosages. Medication errors, including failing to inform patients about negative side effects of prescription drugs, can lead to severe or fatal health problems for patients.

Likewise, it is just as critical for patients to adhere to directions as it is for physicians to take care when prescribing drugs. A recent study suggests that many heart patients are prone to making medication mistakes that could harm their health. Doctors should be aware of this issue so that they can make sure that their heart patients fully understand how and when to take their medications.

The report stated that half of the study’s participants erred while taking their heart medications. Ninety-eight percent of patients who made mistakes did not experience life-threatening injuries. Two percent suffered serious harm. Researchers admitted that patients might not have been entirely at fault for all of the adverse events.

More than 850 heart patients were tracked for the study. Fifty percent of the patients had met with a pharmacist twice before leaving the hospital after a heart problem. Patients also received special pill carriers and charts to track their medication usage. The remaining participants were informed of medications and dosages by conventional methods before leaving the hospital.

Researchers then followed-up with patients one month after they had been hospitalized for a heart problem. They discovered that more than half of the patients had made mistakes when taking their heart medications. About 25 percent of the mistakes were serious. The errors included forgetting to take a pill, over or under medicating, and taking a drug for an incorrect length of time. Patients who spoke with pharmacists made the same mistakes as those who did not speak with a pharmacist before taking their medications.

Confusion after a hospital stay is not unusual. For this reason, patients, doctors and families should make sure that they take certain steps to prevent medication errors. Patients can avoid medication errors by connecting with family doctors and pharmacists as soon as possible after being discharged and by carrying a list of prescribed drugs and dosages at all times so that they know when they need to take their medications.

Source: Reuters, “Half of all heart patients make medication errors,” Andrew M. Seaman, July 9, 2012

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