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Patient records

USB memory sticks could help reduce medicine errors after hospital discharge

Study results show that patients given USB sticks containing their electronic medicine records were subject to fewer medicine errors following hospital discharge compared with patients who received a handwritten discharge prescription.

Giving patients a USB device containing electronic medicine records at hospital discharge could help prevent medicine errors as they move between hospital and the community, a study published in the British Journal of General Practice (23 April 2019) has found.

Researchers carried out a study comprising 102 patients aged 60 years or above in the five general medical and surgical wards of a 350-bed hospital and general practices in County Cork, Ireland, between January 2016 and July 2016.

Some of the patients were issued with a ‘Patient-Held Active Record of Medication Status’ (PHARMS) USB device, while the rest received usual care in the form of a handwritten discharge prescription.

The researchers collected data for all patients detailing their pre-admission and hospital discharge medicine information; age; length of hospital stay; the number of medicines they were taking on admission; and independence in terms of continence, mobility, feeding and dressing. 

They also examined each patient’s discharge prescriptions for errors and patients’ GPs informed them if any errors posing clinical risk were detected.

In addition, the researchers carried out interviews with patients, junior doctors in the hospital, GPs and IT professionals, and directly observed the implementation process.

Overall, the results showed that the total number of medicine errors was lower in the intervention group than in the control group (median 1, interquartile range [IQR] 0–3 vs. median 8, IQR 4–13.5, P<0.001), as was the clinical significance score.

The researchers also discovered that there was a complete absence of errors pertaining to patient information, date, legibility, quantity and prescriber information among the intervention group. 

Through the interviews they found out that the PHARMS device was considered to be technically implementable using the existing IT systems, as well as clinically feasible and acceptable.

“Establishing effective methods of reducing medication error as patients move between hospital and the community is currently an international priority,” the authors of the study said.

“This device may offer a potential solution to the challenges of medication reconciliation at the primary–secondary care interface using existing IT infrastructure.”

They added that a larger scale evaluation of the device, including deployment at the point of hospital admission, was now warranted. 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206462

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