Realistic view of medication reconciliation?

Hospitals & Health Networks: “Despite progress, medication reconciliation remains a bitter pill. Un-intended changes in medications occur in one-third of all patients transferred between hospital departments, and in 14 percent of patients at hospital discharge, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Most medication inconsistencies could be avoided if reconciliation were performed at patient admission, transfer and discharge. Hospital information systems are helping some wired hospitals rdo this across the care continuum despite the lack of a universal solution.

Medication reconciliation was designated a 2005 National Patient Safety Goal by the Joint Commission, which recommended that organizations accurately and completely reconcile medications across the continuum of care. In 2009, however, the commission announced it would no longer score medication reconciliation during on-site accreditation surveys, because of difficulties with implementation strategies. Then, in December 2010, the commission announced a new version of the NPSG (08.01.01), to be effective July 1 of this year. According to the commission, the new streamlined version focuses on critical-risk points in the medication reconciliation process.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices still is disappointed in the current status of medication reconciliation. “It’s not what we expected for a process that on the surface seems so simple,” says Stu Levine, an ISMP informatics specialist.”

I received a link to this article through the Healthcare IS – Pharmacy IT/Pharmacy Informatics CPOE Group on LinkedIn. The article is titled “Medication Reconciliation Only as Good as the IT Allows”. I find the title a little strange, and a bit misleading. Consider that the medication reconciliation process is best handled by diligence among healthcare providers, not IT. The technology to provide clinicians with medication lists is only a tool to make the process easier. Reconciling a patient’s medications is at best a difficult task. The “general public” knows surprisingly little about their own medications; including the simplest of things like names and doses. Getting physicians to reconcile a medication list isn’t much better. More often than not they simply sign the “transfer med list” without really scrutinizing what’s on it.

Unfortunately the article makes it sound like a simple process of looking at the medication list on admission, transfer and discharge. It really isn’t as simple as that. We utilized this process at my previous hospital and I can tell you that we were lucky to have a patient medication list that was accurate. Most were haphazard attempts that lead to confusion and lots of phone calls and clarification.

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