When you (or a loved one) go home from the hospital, there is a lot to keep track of, including medications. Although it’s vital for patients to stick to their medication regimens upon discharge, many patients have medication issues after a hospital stay. It seems like it would be easy to stay on track with your medication, but it’s much easier said than done. How can you make sure you properly take your medications after leaving the hospital? See our 10 tips to reduce medication issues after a hospital stay.
What happens if you don’t take your medications correctly?
If you don’t take your medication the way your doctor recommends, your health can suffer. For example, it can take longer to recover, you might get sicker or develop other health problems. And you may end up back in the hospital.
Why do patients struggle with medication issues after a hospital stay?
One study followed patients who were sent home after hospitalizations for heart failure, acute coronary symptoms or pneumonia. The study evaluated medication errors for these patients during and after their discharge from the hospital.
- 81% of patients experienced a medication error due to:
- provider error
- patient confusion regarding at least one intended medication change
- 60% of patients didn’t understand at least one of their medication changes resulting from their recent hospitalization. The changes were either a new or altered prescription, or a discontinuation of a medication.
- Errors and misunderstandings were more common for medications not related to the patient’s primary ailment (the reason for their hospitalization).
Patients don’t always get needed medications.
Furthermore, another study found that patients often don’t have their needed medications after hospital discharges. Consequently, patients’ health can worsen, potentially leading to rehospitalizations and even deaths. The study found that patients leaving an ICU (Intensive Care Unit) were even more likely to unintentionally discontinue their medications, when compared to patients who had not been in an ICU.
Why does this happen?
There are many factors leading to this potentially serious problem. At hospital discharge, it’s possible for providers to unintentionally omit a medication from a patient’s discharge record. For example, doctors may temporarily discontinue medications for a pre-existing chronic condition and subsequently fail to restart medications when the patient recovers from an acute episode.
What can you do to minimize your risk of medication issues after a hospital stay?
If you are a patient or a family caregiver, I recommend these tips.
While in the hospital:
- Always keep a detailed medication journal with the patient. Include the name and dosage of each medication, along with the dates patients started (and stopped) taking each medication. Also include over the counter medication.
- Write down exactly each new medications a doctor prescribes. Include the exact spelling of the medication, dosage, instructions on how and when to take it, when to stop, and possible side effects.
- Note any changes in dosage or instructions for existing medications.
- If more than one doctor is overseeing your care (or the care of a loved one), check the medication list with each doctor. Make sure the list includes all medications, including over the counter medications.
- If possible, check this list with the medical team from the day shift as well as the team from the evening shift. Make sure that nothing was left off in a staff transition.
- Before leaving the hospital, make sure you review a complete list of medications with the discharge team, including any medications you took before this hospitalization.
- If you think a medication is missing from the medication list given to you, speak up! Do not assume staff left off a medication on purpose.
- For complicated medication regimens, work with a discharge planner or nurse to determine ways to make it easy for you, or the patient, to take your medications as prescribed.
Tips for staying on track at home:
- Fill and take all medications as prescribed. If you have a problem you think is related to medication, contact your doctor or the doctor who treated you in the hospital.
- If money is going to prevent you from filling prescriptions – speak up. Discuss this with your doctor, nurse or discharge planner. There is financial help available for those who cannot afford prescriptions. Read my blog post: How to Save Money on Prescription Medications, and find resources for financial help at the Zaggo Resource center.
- When you arrive home, carefully check each medication containers against the list you received at the hospital and/or pharmacy. Be sure you have each needed medication, with the proper dosage instructions.
- Set up systems to organize the pills and to act as a reminder to take medications throughout the day. Use the free ZaggoCare Daily Medication and Treatment chart for complicated regimens.
For information on reducing the risk of complications after discharge, read my post Tips for Hospital Discharges.
It’s important to realize that all medications have the potential to harm patients. Therefore, it’s critical to take the right medication, at the right time, in the right way. Read these blog posts to learn more tips to reduce your risk of medication related issues:
- Reduce Your Risk of Medication Errors.
- What’s an Adverse Drug Reaction?
- Medication Errors in Hospitals – How Can You Protect Yourself?
- Reduce the Risk of Medication Errors in Rehab Facilities.
- Dangers of Black-Market Medications – More Common Than You Think.
- Tips to Take Medication as Prescribed.
- Are Antibiotics Helpful or Harmful? What You Need to Know.
- Doctors Prescribe Too Many Medications.
- Are Medications Safe?
- Is Off-Label Medication Safe?