Medication Mix-ups Common in Heart Patients
Half of people in the hospital for a heart attack or heart failure make a mistake with their medications within a month of going home. This is true even among people who get counseling and guidance from a pharmacist.
In a recent study, researchers surveyed more than 850 patients at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. All of the patients were highly educated, yet they still had problems following instructions.
The researchers found that half of the patients made at least one medication error. About 23 percent were serious errors, and 1.8 percent were life threatening.
"This shows how vulnerable patients are in the transition from hospital to home," says Gregg Fonarow, M.D., a spokesman for the American Heart Association.
Dr. Fonarow says both patients and caregivers should learn drug names and dosing, and which medications should be discontinued, or continued, after leaving the hospital. EXT
"This information should be given verbally and in writing to all involved parties. It needs to be recognized that even with all of these steps, there is still a potential for clinically important medical errors," he says.
Teach-back programs are another way to combat medication errors. In a pilot teach-back program recently started at North Shore Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., caregivers teach patients about their medications and then the patients "teach" or repeat the information back to the caregivers.
"We are also rolling out a program where we go to a patient's house within 72 hours after discharge to make sure they are on the right medications," says Adam Auerbach, M.D., director of inpatient cardiac services at North Shore Hospital.
According to Dr. Auerbach, part of the problem is financial. People often skip doses or split pills to save money. Choosing generic medications, when possible, can help cut the cost factor.
Dr. Auerbach also says that people with a strong support network tend to do better because they have more than one caregiver keeping an eye on their recovery.
North Shore also asks patients to bring all of their medications with them to every visit to ensure that the drugs are being taken correctly.
According to other experts, using one pharmacy for all your prescription and medication needs is best because interactions and potential problems can more easily be found.
The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.