Study offers some clues on how to reduce $4.2 billion medication error dilemma

Reducing Errors with an EMRFor those interested in reducing medication errors, particularly among the  elderly, a new study from a Philadelphia population health institution offers some compelling statistics. The three-year proof-of-concept study suggests that education interventions centered on physicians helped reduce by 31 percent the rate of physicians prescribing medication that has adverse health risks for elderly patients that eclipse the health benefits.

Researchers with Philadelphia-based Jefferson School of Population Health, part of Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, found that by increasing physician awareness of prescribing drugs for seniors aged 65 and older alone could cut the rate of potentially inappropriate medications by 9.8 percent.

The study included 303 general practitioners in Parma, Italy. The location was chosen because it has universal healthcare and a uniform system that was deemed easier to study than the U.S., according to an emailed announcement from Jefferson.

Education intervention with physicians involved three things:

  • Distributing a list of potentially inappropriate medications to be avoided, referred to as the PIM list, with a list of alternative drugs. The PIM list includes medications that are frequently used such as ibuprofen.
  • Reviewing data on incidents of potentially inappropriate medications.
  • Holding educational sessions on potentially inappropriate medications that included case study reviews and peer-to-peer interactions.

The study was authored by Vittorio Maio and Scott Keith of the School of Population Health and physician Stefano Del Cante in Parma, and published in the most recent issue of Drugs & Aging.

Despite the fact the study wasn’t done in the U.S., it could offer important insights on how this issue is dealt with. In the U.S., outpatient medication errors cost $4.2 billion. About 30 percent of medication prescribed in the U.S. is for retirement-age patients aged 65 years and older, according to the study.

Medication errors are a huge problem for most hospitals and have been the focus of many studies; the issue was recently highlighted by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority. One problem highlighted in the report is the need for better communication between patients, healthcare professionals and caregivers to ensure hospitals know all the medications including over-the-counter medications patients may be taking for underlying conditions that could interfere with drugs prescribed to them.


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