07:02am Thursday 21 September 2017

Medication information critical for emergency patients

hospital entrance

Ms Esther Chan, a researcher with the Department of Pharmacy Practice, within the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the emergency department of Melbourne’s Austin Hospital, conducted a study into the accuracy of medication prescribed to patients on hospital admission.

The study results, published in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), revealed that prescribing errors were half as likely when patient’s own medications were brought in to hospital, compared to when they were not left at home.

“Often in an emergency situation where people are rushed to hospital in an ambulance, medications may not be the first thing on their minds. Paramedics may have a role in assisting them in bringing their medications to hospital. This is important because we need to know exactly what medications people are taking in order to manage their presenting complaint appropriately,” Ms Chan said.

“In cases where the patient is unable to explain what medications they are on, the medication containers provide clues to their medication regimen, especially when they present to hospital after hours when local pharmacies and GP clinics are closed. The physical presence of the medication is also a memory trigger for patients when asked by health care professionals.” Ms Chan said.

Ms Chan and a team of researchers studied the cases of 100 patients, who were admitted to the emergency department at the Austin between 13 and 31 March, 2006.

The patient’s studied were taking at least four or more regular medications and were aged over 18 years-of-age.

Among the patients’ own medications brought to the emergency department, 56 (13.1 per cent) prescribing errors subsequently occurred in the hospital.

Among the 372 regular medications taken by patients that were not brought in, 95 (25.5 per cent) errors occurred.

About 40 per cent of errors related to omissions of their regular medications on the hospital drug chart. Approximately three quarters of errors were classified as being of at least “moderate” clinical significance.

“Medications that were not in tablet form were commonly omitted, including insulin, glyceryl trinitrate patches, and eye drops for glaucoma,” Ms Chan said.

“Another common error was prescription of the wrong dose, particularly for people using inhalers or cardiovascular medications.”

Ms Chan said Ambulance Victoria paramedics arriving on site are aware of the need to bring patient’s own medications to hospital where possible.

“It will be great if this message can be extended to patients and their families who can play an important role in bringing their medications with them to hospital,” Ms Chan said.

For more information, contact Samantha Blair, Media and Communications + 61 3 9903 4841 or +61 439 013 951.


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