Hopkins study: Nurses, pharmacists should work more closely

(BizJournals.com) Hospitals that pair nurses and pharmacists in teams may have a better shot at cutting down on medication mix-ups, according to a study by Johns Hopkins University of School of Medicine researchers.

A study involving about 560 patients atJohns Hopkins Hospital showed that the hospital could reduce the risk of medication errors and save money by having nurses and pharmacists work together to look for discrepancies between drugs a patient is already taking at home and what is prescribed at the hospital.

The medication tracking procedure costs about $32 per patient and $114 to identify one medication discrepancy that could cause harm to a patient, according to the study. Conversely, it costs an average of $9,300 to treat a patient for a drug discrepancy complication.

The findings come at a time when hospitals and other health care organizations are re-thinking their patient care methods to align with the federal Affordable Care Act. Hospitals are increasingly looking to cut down on readmission rates and create a care system that centers around overall wellness, rather than disease treatment.

The rise in the number of people with chronic health conditions — and the number of people with daily medication regiments to manage those conditions — also highlights the need for better management of medication at hospitals.

“When we give dedicated time for teams of nurses and consulting pharmacists to find and fix discrepancies, patients will be safer and hospitals will be delighted that patients are being readmitted less often in a day and age when readmission is a bad word,” Dr. Leonard S. Feldman, an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study’s leader, said in a statement.

It is important for hospitals to compare a list of medications a patient is already taking to drugs being administered at the hospital and drugs that will be prescribed when a patient is discharged. Some drugs taken together may cause a negative reaction; going without a needed medication could also cause problems.

About 40 percent of the study’s patients, 225 out of 563 participants, experienced an unintended discrepancy in their medications.

The study found that nurses were able to reduce the number of discrepancies by comparing a list of medications a patient was already taking at home to drugs a doctor prescribed at the hospital and consulting with a pharmacist and the doctor when discrepancy arose. The nurses also compared a list of medications used at the hospital and at home to the list being prescribed at a patient’s discharge.

The study was published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

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