• Vol. 37 No. 2, 136–141
  • 15 February 2008

Medication Use in the Transition from Hospital to Home



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After hospital discharge, correct understanding and use of medications are key components of patient safety. The current discharge process does not provide adequate fail-safes to ensure quality post-discharge care. This often leads to preventable medication errors as well as non-adherence. Several barriers to successful discharge counselling, including use of medical jargon, lack of educational and administrative resources, time constraints, and low health literacy, contribute to ineffective communication between hospital physicians and patients. Other obstacles include inaccurate or incomplete documentation of the medication history, lack of social support, financial constraints, and poor transfer of information to outpatient physicians. Solutions to improve medication use in the transition period after hospital discharge require effective communication with patients through the use of easily understood language, highlighting key information, and ensuring patient comprehension through the “teach back” technique. More timely communication with outpatient physicians in addition to a more comprehensive transfer of information further facilitates the transition home. Finally, a systematic process of medication reconciliation also aids in decreasing the incidence of medication errors. Hospital-based physicians who attend to key details in the process of discharging patients can have a profound impact on improving medication adherence, avoiding medication errors, and decreasing adverse outcomes in the post-discharge period.

Hospital discharge can be a complex and challenging time for physicians and patients alike. Patients are being discharged sooner, often in the process of convalescence rather than at baseline health status. This requires physicians to more effectively communicate instructions for post discharge care to patients, family members, and outpatient providers.

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