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10 Tips for Avoiding Medication Issues After a Hospital Stay

colorful pills spread on table - medication issues after a hospital stayWhen 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. Why don’t patients take their medications after leaving the hospital? Learn 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.

Researchers identify causes of medication issues after a hospital stay.

photo prescription containers - medication issues after a hospital stayOne 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.

Their findings:

  • 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.

photo old woman in hospital - medication issues after a hospital stayWhile in the hospital:
  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
photo pill organizer - medication issues after a hospital stay Tips for staying on track at home:
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Learn more…

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:

 

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