How Common are Medication Errors After Hospital Discharge?

September 2, 2016 in Our News & Bulletins by ABetterWayHC

Medication Errors

The Vanderbilt Inpatient Cohort Study examined the characteristics associated with patient- and medication-related errors after being discharged from the hospital. The study’s 471 participants were heart patients with an average age of 59. More than half – 242 of the 471 patients – made at least one mistake when taking their medicine or misunderstood the instructions given to them upon being discharged from the hospital. This included discrepancies between the medications they reported taking and the ones on their discharge list. A quarter of the participants left out one or more medications on their list and more than a third were taking something that wasn’t on their list. In addition, nearly 60% of the patients reported a misunderstanding of the purpose, dosage, and frequency of their medicine(s). In addition, the CDC states that 20% to 30% of prescriptions are never filled, and 50% are not continued as prescribed.


Being good at math or having higher “health literacy” helped a little, but almost everyone can have trouble with medication management.  People who score highest on health literacy tests prove about 16% less likely to make a medication error.  Those who score highest on math skills test are about 23% less likely to add or omit medications.  On the other hand, in this study, age and being single predicted higher odds of making a medication mistake.


This study, along with previous ones, continues to highlight the importance of making sure patient instructions are clear and that patients understand what they need to do when discharged. This study also highlights one of the great aspects of our services.  As part of our help around the home, we can provide daily reminders to take prescribed medications, help make sure clients get their prescriptions filled, and help make sure clients are able to retrieve their prescriptions from the pharmacy.


Source: Mixon A, Myers A, Leak C, et al. Characteristics associated with postdischarge medication errors. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Aug 2014; 89 (8): 1042-1051.

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