Medication Errors: Heart Patients at Risk After Release From Hospital

Even if a patient survives an initial heart attack, a dangerous period awaits upon release from the hospital. According to a new study, half of all patients who are hospitalized for heart attack or heart failure make medication mistakes in the first month upon returning home.

If a medication error is made by a health care provider, it can be a form of medical malpractice. But what steps can healthcare providers take to ensure that patients take their meds once they go home?

In a study published earlier this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers found that 50 percent of the 851 participants had one or more medication mistake. Of these mistakes, 23 percent (nearly 1 in 4) were classified as serious. Nearly two percent of them were potentially life-threatening.

The study was done at two hospitals. Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville was one. Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston was the other.

“This shows how vulnerable patients are in the transition from hospital to home,” said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a spokesman for the American Heart Association.

Clearly hospitals have much more to do in educating patients and their caregivers about drug dosages and their effects. There is a critical need for better communication regarding the impact of hospitalization for cardiac event on prescriptions that the patient may take after release.

This does not only include medication for the heart condition itself. It also includes other medications that the patient is taking.

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Dr. Adam Auerbach, director of inpatient cardiac services at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York, believes it is important for hospitals to start pilot programs aimed at reducing medication errors. Such programs could contain steps like going to a patient’s house 72 hours after release from the hospital to make sure he or she is taking the right meds.

Source: “Half of Heart Patients Make Mistakes With Their Meds: Study,” US News / Healthday, Denise Mann, 7-3-12

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