ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Soybean Chemicals May Reduce Effects of Menopause
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Garlic Yields Up Its Health Secret
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Beware of Dog Bites
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer Face Joint Issues
B Cells Can Act Alone in Autoimmune Diseases
Tequila Plant May Help Fight Bone Loss
CANCER
Yoga Eases Sleep Problems Among Cancer Survivors
Method for Treating Cervical Lesions May Pose Pregnancy Risks
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
CAREGIVING
Omega-3 Fatty Acid May Help 'Preemie' Girls' Brains
U.S. Mental Health Spending Rises, But Many Still Left Out
Moms Who Breast-Feed Less Likely to Neglect Child
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
COSMETIC
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
DENTAL, ORAL
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Holistic Dentistry-My View
DIABETES
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
Older Diabetics With Depression Face Higher Death Rate
Vitamin K Slows Insulin Resistance in Older Men
DIET, NUTRITION
Pesticides and How to Affordably Eat Organic or Reduce Pesticide Consumption
5 Reasons why you could gain weight while dieting
Compound in Red Wine Fights Ravages of Age
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Ozone Pollution Taking Toll on American Lives
Bed Bugs Bring No Disease Danger
Flame-Retardant Chemical Linked to Conception Problems
EYE CARE, VISION
Time Teaches Brain to Recognize Objects
Eye Problems, Hearing Loss May Be Linked
Decorative Halloween Eye Lenses May Pose Serious Risks
FITNESS
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Early Exercise Boosts Outcomes for ICU Patients
Daily Exercise at School Yields Rewards
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Meat Additives May Be Dangerous for Kidney Patients
Should the FDA Regulate Tobacco?
Food and Water Supply Poisoned by Perchlorate
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
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
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
Coffee Is Generally Heart-Friendly
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Treat Kids to a Safe Halloween
Gene Variation Found in Boys With Delinquent Peers
Safety Should Be Priority for Those Involved in Kids' Sports
MEN'S HEALTH
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
MENTAL HEALTH
17 Ways to Create the Perfect Workday
Fear Response May Stem From Protein in Brain
A Simple 'Thank You' Brings Rewards to All
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
SENIORS
Protein Deposits May Show Up Before Memory Problems Occur, Study Says
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Calcium Helps Ward Off Colon Cancer
Flame-Retardant Chemical Linked to Conception Problems
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
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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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