A new study has shown that hospitals can decrease medication errors by having pharmacists interview patients to get a complete medical history. Pharmacists and pharmacy students at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Ill, interviewed 204 patients within 24 to 48 hours of admission between August 2002 and July 2003. During the interviews, the researchers identified and resolved any discrepancies between the patients' medical record, their admission profile, and their actual medication regimen, including vitamins and herbal supplements and medications taken before admission.
Reporting in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy (August 15, 2004), the researchers found that more than half of the patients had discrepancies in their medication histories. Of those discrepancies, 22% could have resulted in patient harm during hospitalization and 59% could have caused harm if the error had continued after the patient was discharged. The authors said that the study cost an estimated $5000 in pharmacists' salaries but saved $39,000 in hospital costs through error prevention.