ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Traditional Chinese Therapy May Help Ease Eczema
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
Holistic Treatment for Candida Infection
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
For All Their Plusses, Pets Pose a Risk for Falls, Too
Autumn Sees More Women With Bunion Problems
A Little Drink May Be Good for Your Bones
CANCER
Green Tea Compound Slowed Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
Yoga Eases Sleep Problems Among Cancer Survivors
CAREGIVING
U.S. Mental Health Spending Rises, But Many Still Left Out
Falls Are Top Cause of Injury, Death Among Elderly
Rapid Infant Weight Gain Linked to Childhood Obesity
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Walk 100 Steps a Minute for 'Moderate' Exercise
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Periodontal Disease Impacts Whole Health
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
DIABETES
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
DIET, NUTRITION
Coffee Beans May Be Newest Stress-Buster
Research Confirms How Valuable A Healthy Lifestyle Can Be
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Think You Are Lead-Free? Check Your Soil
EPA Alerts Seniors to Carbon Monoxide Dangers
Cleaning House May Be Risky for Women With Asthma
EYE CARE, VISION
Brain Adapts to Age-Related Eye Disease
Sports Eye Injuries Leading Cause of Blindness in Youths
Green Tea May Ward Off Eye Disease
FITNESS
Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain
Walking Golf Course Affects Swing, Performance
Walk Long, Slow and Often to Help the Heart
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
GENERAL HEALTH
Vitamin D and Bone Health: Are You Getting Enough of This Important Vitamin?
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Have a Goal in Life? You Might Live Longer
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Psychiatric Drugs Might Raise Cardiac Death Risk
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
Western Diet Linked To Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Backpack Safety Should Be on Back-to-School Lists
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Winter's Bitter Cold Poses Health Dangers
MEN'S HEALTH
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
MENTAL HEALTH
Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes
Fear Response May Stem From Protein in Brain
The Unmedicated Mind
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
SENIORS
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Relief for Painful Menstrual Cramps
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
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Medication Errors Could Be Cut: Experts

MONDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- Medication errors and adverse drug reactions cost lives and dollars each year in the United States, but two new reports suggest ways hospitals and pharmacists can work to reduce these mistakes.

Medication errors are one of the most common medical errors, affecting at least 1.5 million people every year and costing the health-care system between $77 billion and $177 billion annually, researchers point out in the April 27 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In the first report, researchers led by Dr. Jeffrey L. Schnipper, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, used a computer system to keep track of the medications patients were taking when they were admitted to the hospital and the medications they were taking when they were discharged.

"It turns out that we commit about 1.5 errors per patient either for the admissions orders in the hospital or, much more commonly, in the discharge orders, which is kind of appalling," Schnipper said. "These are errors with potential for patient harm. There are about three times as many errors without potential for patient harm."

For the study, Schnipper's team randomly assigned 322 patients from two hospitals to have their medications entered into a computer program at admission that was designed to reconcile those medications with the ones they were taking when they left the hospital. In addition, the researchers tried having different people take the patient's medication history and keep track of all the medications they were taking. These included doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

Among the 162 patients in the program, there were 1.05 medication errors per patient compared with 1.44 errors among patients receiving usual care -- a 28 percent reduction in errors.

Of the errors, 43 among patients in the program had the potential to cause serious harm compared with 55 among patients in the usual-care group.

The problem of medication error starts when patients are asked what drug they are taking when they come into the hospital, Schnipper said. "Patients don't know what they are taking. You have got to carry your current accurate medication list in your wallet," he advised.

Since the initial study, error rates have continued to drop as people got used to the system and the "culture" in each hospital changed to accommodate the program, Schnipper said. "Preliminarily, it looks like we are down to half an error per patient," he said.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has made medication reconciliation a national priority. Medication reconciliation is identifying the most accurate list of all medications a patient is taking, and using this list to give correct medications for patients anywhere within the health-care system.

Matthew Grissinger, a medication safety analyst at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, believes the study is a good model for hospitals to follow to help reduce medication errors.

The most important feature of the system was developing a method for taking patient's medication history on admission. "Standardizing the process of who is going to do what in regard to medication reconciliation in hospital admission and discharge is really the biggest challenge organizations have," he said.

In a second report, a team led by Michael D. Murray, chair of the department of pharmaceutical policy and evaluative sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found that among outpatients with high blood pressure, when pharmacists, doctors and patients communicate, medication errors decrease.

"By working closely with doctors and nurses, pharmacists can help people avoid problems with their medication for chronic diseases like high blood pressure and heart failure," Murray said. "This has favorable effects on health and health-care costs."

For the study, Murray's group looked at the effect of having pharmacists involved in medication decisions in cutting down on medication errors and adverse drug effects among 800 patients with high blood pressure. Included among these patients were some with heart failure or other heart conditions. The researchers used a computer program to identify adverse drug reactions among the patients.

Patients assigned pharmacists intervention received instructions on using their medications. In addition, the pharmacists monitored the patients' drugs and communicated with both the patient and the patient's primary-care doctor to help improve adherence to medication regimens.

The researchers found that patients receiving pharmacists' interventions had fewer medication errors and adverse drug reactions compared with the other patients. In fact, there was a 34 percent lower risk of any event, including a 35 percent lower risk of an adverse drug reaction and a 37 percent lower risk of medication error.

"There are way in which pharmacists can work collaboratively with the other members of the health-care team to improve patient safety in the outpatient setting," Murray said.

"This study shows the importance of having a pharmacist actively involved in asking about how the patient is doing, what type of side effects is the patient having, and is the patients taking the medication," Grissinger said. "That is as important as the initial consultation."

-Steven Reinberg

More information

For more information on medication error, visit the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.



SOURCES: Michael D. Murray, Pharm.D., M.P.H., chair, department of pharmaceutical policy and evaluative sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Jeffrey L. Schnipper, M.D., M.P.H., associate physician, Brigham and Women's Hospital, assistant professor, medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Matthew Grissinger, medication safety analyst, Institute for Safe Medication Practices, Horsham, Pa.; April 27, 2009, Archives of Internal Medicine

Last Updated: April 27, 2009

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