ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture May Not Help Hot Flashes
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Beware of Dog Bites
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
Pain More a Cause of Arthritis Than a Symptom
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
CANCER
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Spice Compounds May Stem Tumor Growth
Poor Women Seem to Be Skipping Breast Cancer Drugs
CAREGIVING
UV Lights, Fans May Curb TB Spread in Hospitals
Birthmark or Blood Vessel Problem?
Coordination Has Led to Quicker Heart Treatment
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
COSMETIC
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
DENTAL, ORAL
Periodontal Disease Impacts Whole Health
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
Amino Acid May Be Key to Strong Teeth
DIABETES
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
Older Diabetics With Depression Face Higher Death Rate
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
DIET, NUTRITION
Added Sugars in Diet Threaten Heart Health
Milk Destroys Antioxidant Benefits in Blueberries
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Artificial Light Linked to Prostate Cancer Risk
Common Pesticide Tied to Development Delays in Kids
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
EYE CARE, VISION
Half of U.S. Adults Lack 20/20 Vision
Eye Problems, Hearing Loss May Be Linked
Don't Lose Sight of Halloween Safety
FITNESS
Study Shows Exercise Shields Against Osteoporosis
Mom and Baby Alike May Benefit From Exercise
Exercise in Adolescence May Cut Risk of Deadly Brain Tumor
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
GENERAL HEALTH
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Soluble Fiber, But Not Bran, Soothes Irritable Bowel
Natural Oils Help Lower Body Fat For Some
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Coffee Is Generally Heart-Friendly
Omega-3, Some Omega-6 Fatty Acids Boost Cardiovascular Health
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Treat Kids to a Safe Halloween
Scary Toxins Make Halloween Face Paints Questionable
Don't Leave Your Kids In The Car !
MEN'S HEALTH
Countdown to Hair Loss
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
MENTAL HEALTH
Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
Common Social Groups and Race, Seem to Help People Relate
Fear Response May Stem From Protein in Brain
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
SENIORS
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
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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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