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Medication reconciliation, pharmacist involvement vital to reducing medication errors, study finds

CHICAGO Obtaining complete and accurate medication histories of patients and instituting a medication reconciliation program are vital to reducing medication errors, a new study conducted at Northwestern Memorial Hospital has shown. The study demonstrated that when hospital pharmacists perform medication reconciliation, taking steps to ensure patients receive the correct medication and accurate dosage, the number of medication errors dropped and with them the potential for patient injury.

"A medication error, once in a patient's medical record, can carry-over from admission through discharge unless medication reconciliation is performed," says Kristine Gleason, who is on the hospital's Patient Safety Team and is the lead author of the study, Reconciliation of Discrepancies in Medication Histories and Admission Orders of Newly Hospitalized Patients. "Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and patients often just assume medical histories are accurate, and that's not always the case."

The study findings, published this week in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, are particularly significant in light of the recent announcement by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations that medication reconciliation for all hospital patients is one of its 2005 National Patient Safety Goals. That means medication reconciliation programs are a requirement for accreditation.

Northwestern Memorial is working toward that goal, implementing a computerized prescriber order entry (CPOE) system as part of its patient safety initiative. A previous study at Northwestern Memorial found that a combination of pharmacist involvement and a CPOE system with significant clinical decision support will likely provide the best approach to improve medication safety among patients.

Data collected by Northwestern Memorial researchers for the new study showed that in the absence of a pharmacist intervention, 22 percent of medication discrepan
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Contact: Andrew Buchanan
anbuchan@nmh.org
312-926-6503
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
16-Aug-2004


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