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Hospitals Urged to Avert More Drug Errors

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CHICAGO (AP) _ Hospitals should intensify efforts to highlight medications on medical charts to avoid drug errors that often occur when patients are transferred or discharged, an accrediting group said Wednesday.

Patients risk getting double doses, the wrong drug or incompatible drugs because of inadequate record-keeping when their care is handed from one hospital unit to another and when they are sent home, according to an alert from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

Hospitals can help avoid problems by paying more attention to the ``medication reconciliation'' process that should take place during these transfers, the commission said in the alert to the more than 15,000 hospitals and health care organizations nationwide that it accredits.

That process should include listing medications and proper doses in a ``highly visible'' place on patient charts; communicating that information to doctors, nurses and patients during transfers; and making sure patients have accurate lists of medication and instructions for use when they're sent home, the commission said.

According to the commission, more than 2,000 reports of medication reconciliation errors were received last year by U.S. Pharmacopeia, an independent group that sets standards for drugs and medical products and also has a voluntary medication error reporting program for health care providers.

That's likely a fraction of the medication mistakes that occur, and while most might not result in serious harm, it has been estimated that drug errors kill more than 7,000 hospitalized patients nationwide each year.

The commission said it has data showing that 63 percent of reported medication errors resulting in death or serious injury were due to breakdowns in communication.

``Approximately half of those would have been avoided through effective medication reconciliation,'' the group said in a news release.
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