Take Your Medicine With You in the Ambulance

by VR Sreeraman on Oct 3 2009 12:19 PM

Patients who are taken to hospital emergency departments by ambulance are less likely to suffer from medication errors if their own medicines are transported with them in the ambulance, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Ms Esther Chan, a pharmacist and PhD candidate, and her co-authors conducted an observational study of patients arriving by ambulance at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne between 13 and 31 March, 2006.

The researchers studied the cases of 100 patients who were admitted to the hospital, were taking four or more regular medications, and were aged at least 18 years.

"Bringing a patient's own medication to the emergency department was associated with less than half as many prescribing errors on admission medication charts compared with when the medication was not brought in," Ms Chan said.

"An intervention program should be introduced to encourage paramedics to bring patients' own medication to the emergency department."

Among the 428 patients' own medications brought to the emergency department, 56 (13.1 per cent) prescribing errors subsequently occurred in the hospital.

Among the 372 regular medications taken by patients for whom patients' own medications were notbrought in, 95 (25.5 per cent) errors occurred.

About 40 per cent of errors related to a failure to prescribe a medicine on the drug chart. Almost three quarters of errors were classified as being of "moderate" clinical significance.

"Medications that were not in tablet form were commonly omitted, including insulin, glyceryl trinitrate patches, and eye drops for glaucoma," Ms Chan said.

"Another common error was prescription of the wrong dose, particularly for people using inhalers or cardiovascular medications."