Medication errors are one of the leading types of medical malpractice, causing thousands of deaths a year and untold injuries. If you or a loved one is taking prescription drugs, you need to be sure you are receiving the right drugs at the right doses. Many problems can arise when a person transitions from one health care facility to the next. Fortunately, medication reconciliation might catch errors—but only if practitioners actually use it.
What is Medication Reconciliation?
This is a simple, easy-to-understand technique that can save a patient’s life. Basically, a clinician will look at the list of medications that a patient is taking and then double check that their new medications match. It is often used when a patient transitions from a hospital to a nursing home, for example.
In sum, a nurse or doctor should check a patient’s medical records and ask the patient what they are taking. Once a full list of medications is compiled, the clinician ensures that there are no discrepancies with the new medications ordered. The clinician should also update records so that the facility (hospital, nursing home, etc.) has a full list that is current.
Is Medication Reconciliation Always Successful?
No. There are some well-known reasons why it fails. For one, patients often do not know what they are taking. But patient self-reporting is a key aspect of medication reconciliation.
Ideally, medical records are all complete and stored in one easy-to-retrieve place. If that were true, clinicians would not need to rely on the patient to provide information about their current medications. In reality, however, medical records can be scattered across multiple hospitals, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies. Some records are also incomplete. Consequently, clinicians still rely on patients for information about the drugs they are taking and the dosages. Sometimes the patient does not have that information memorized or available.
Does Medication Reconciliation Always Take Place?
Unfortunately, no. Some facilities might be overwhelmed or not have adequate protocols in place. Simple errors are common. As mentioned above, reconciliation is not always 100% successful because of unavoidable errors, such as a patient’s lack of knowledge.
However, medical providers should make a good faith effort to capture as best they can all medications. If a provider doesn’t even try, or is too sloppy, they can easily cause injury to a patient.