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Medications and Hospital Readmission

Sep 24, 2019

Discharged from the hospital? Here's what you need to know to lower your chances of being readmitted.

Around 20 percent of hospital readmissions happen after 30 days because of an uncoordinated transition of care. After you've been discharged, it's important to know what steps to take to reduce your chance of being readmitted.

The majority of readmissions happen because of the improper use of medication after leaving the hospital. People discharged from the hospital are at risk of medication-related side effects. In fact, an estimated 20 percent of people discharged from the hospital experience adverse events related to medications.

And if that's not scary enough, around 50 percent of these events may be preventable.

These events can happen because the doctor at the hospital doesn't know what medications your family doctor has previously prescribed. (This includes over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements and nutritional supplements.) In addition, many medication changes can happen during your hospital stay and during discharge.

These factors can lead to medication safety issues, such as the following:

  • Your new medication may interact with medications you have at home, and these interactions can become dangerous.
  • The new medication may be similar to your medication at home, which can lead to side effects.

Not understanding the medications or the treatment plan when leaving the hospital is a problem. That's why it is so important to ask questions when you're being discharged.

A few questions to ask include the following:

  • What is the diagnosis?
  • What medications do I need to take? (Make sure you understand why, when and how to take them.)
  • What side effects do I need to look out for?
  • What medications do I need to stop taking?
  • What symptoms signify that I am not getting better or that I am getting better?
  • What phone number can I call if I have a question or problem?

These are just a few examples of questions. Don't be afraid to ask any question you have.

Other problems that can affect hospital readmission include the following:

  • The health care system being very complex and hard to navigate
  • Waiting too long to pick up prescriptions after being discharged
  • Not taking prescribed medications

Your local community pharmacist may be able to help you. Your pharmacist can go over the medications you were discharged with and make sure there are no medication safety issues. Your pharmacist can check for potential drug interactions, duplication of therapy (taking two medications that are similar) and much more. They can also explain the medications and your treatment.

Written by Anyssa Garza, PharmD, BCMAS

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