ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Know Your Asthma Triggers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Holistic Treatment for Candida Infection
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
Massage Therapy Helps Those With Advanced Cancer
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Rheumatoid Arthritis Hits Women Harder
Drinking Cuts Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
Soccer's a Winner for Building Bone Health in Girls
CANCER
Smoking Ups Risk of Second Breast Cancer
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
Yoga May Bring Calm to Breast Cancer Treatment
CAREGIVING
Birthmark or Blood Vessel Problem?
Stressed Health Care Workers Battle 'Compassion Fatigue'
Caring for Aging Loved Ones Can Be a Catch-22
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
DENTAL, ORAL
Holistic Dentistry-My View
Dental Implants Need More Work Than Root Canals
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
DIABETES
Whole Grains Take a Bite Out of Type 2 Diabetes Risk
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
Insulin Resistance Tied to Peripheral Artery Disease
DIET, NUTRITION
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
Functional Foods Uncovered
Many Kids Don't Need the Vitamins They're Taking
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
As Earth Warms, Lyme Disease Could Flourish
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
City Kids Find the Breathin' Is Easier Elsewhere
EYE CARE, VISION
Thyroid Problems Boost Glaucoma Risk
Kids' Eye Injuries From Golf Clubs Rare But Severe
Diabetic Eye Disease Rates Soaring
FITNESS
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Exercise Cuts Lung Cancer Risk in Ex-Smokers by 45%
Maximize Your Run
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
GENERAL HEALTH
Why Am I So Tired? Could It Be Low Thyroid?
Sun, Smoke, Extra Weight Add Years to Skin
Stressed and Exhausted: An Introduction to Adrenal Fatigue
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Brown Rice Tied to Better Heart Health in Study
Walk Long, Slow and Often to Help the Heart
Fewer Heart Attacks After England Goes Smoke-Free
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Too Many Infants Short on Vitamin D
MEN'S HEALTH
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
MENTAL HEALTH
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
A Simple 'Thank You' Brings Rewards to All
Common Social Groups and Race, Seem to Help People Relate
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
SENIORS
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
Video Gaming Just Might Fight Aging
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Acupuncture May Help Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Natural Childbirth Moms More Attuned to Babies' Cry
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
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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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