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Reported November 22, 2012

Communication Errors Could Hurt Patients

 

(Ivanhoe Newswire) – When picking up medications at the pharmacy, most of the time it is assumed that the pharmacist knows enough about the medications to help their customers. Unfortunately, a new study shows that pharmacists may actually be out of the loop when it comes to discontinued medications which could lead to patients continuing to receive medications taken off the market. 
 
Using electronic medical records, researchers looked at 1,218 medications that were discontinued throughout 2009 as well as 400 medical charts for any negative effects that may have been the result of a patient continuing to take a discontinued medication. 
 
The researchers found that out of the cases analyzed in the study, 1.5% of the discontinued medications continued to be dispensed at the pharmacy, leading researchers to conclude that a communication gap exists between doctors and pharmacists when it comes to discontinued medications. 
 
Physicians have to tell patients when a medication is discontinued in order to prevent any problems that may be associated with continuing to take the medication. Although medical databases now make sending prescriptions to the pharmacy electronically very easy, many doctors falsely assume that their patients will remember to stop taking the discontinued medications and so they do not notify the pharmacists. 
 
In the study, out of the 1.5% of discontinued medications that were still being refilled at the pharmacy, 12% of those cases resulted in potential harm ranging from low blood pressure and possible allergic reactions to nausea. 
Any possible adverse effects of discontinued medications should be avoided; it has become a matter of patient safety. 
 
However, this problem could easily be rectified by bridging the communication gap between physicians and pharmacists when it comes to discontinued medications. 
 
 "The implementation of electronic health records have offered a clear opportunity to track when a clinician discontinues a medication, but now there needs to be a process that helps discontinued orders be transmitted electronically to the retail pharmacy," lead study author Adrienne Allen, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Medical Director of Quality, Safety, and Risk at North Shore Physicians Group was quoted as saying.
 
Source: Annals of Internal Medicine, November, 2012 
 

 

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