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Published on December 10, 2009

UCH Study Highlights Lack of Patient Knowledge Regarding Hospital Medications

AURORA, Colo. – In a new study to assess patient awareness of medications prescribed during a hospital visit, 44% of patients believed they were receiving a medication they were not, and 96% were unable to recall the name of at least one medication that they had been prescribed. These findings are published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

Ethan Cumbler, MD

"Overall, patients in the study were able to name fewer than half of their hospital medications," said lead researcher Ethan Cumbler, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and director of the University of Colorado Hospital’s Acute Care for the Elderly Service. "Our findings are particularly striking in that we found significant deficits in patient understanding of their hospital medications even among patients who believed they knew, or desired to know, what is being prescribed to them in the hospital."

About the study

The study involved 50 participants, aged between 21 and 89, who all self-identified as knowing their outpatient medications, spoke English, and were from the community around the University of Colorado Hospital. Nursing home residents and patients with a history of dementia were excluded.

Patients younger than 65 were unable to name 60% of medications which they could take as needed, whereas patients older than 65 were unable to name 88% of these medications. This difference remained even after adjustment for number of medications. For scheduled medications, which need to be taken at specific times, there was no difference in recall according to age.

Antibiotics were the most commonly omitted scheduled medication with 17% of all omitted drugs being from this medication group, followed by cardiovascular medications (16%), and antithrombotics (15%). Among medications which could be taken as needed, analgesics (33%) and gastrointestinal medications (29%) were commonly omitted by patient recall.

Findings raise questions about patient roles and responsibilities

"Our study suggests that adult medicine inpatients believe learning about their hospital medications would increase their satisfaction and has potential to promote medication safety," added Cumbler. "I believe the findings of this research raise very interesting questions about the role and responsibilities of patients in the hospital with respect to their medication safety."

Inpatient medication errors represent an important patient safety issue, with one review finding error in almost one in every five medication doses. The patient, as the last link in the medication administration chain, represents the final individual capable of preventing an incorrect medication administration.

The University of Colorado Hospital is the Rocky Mountain region's leading academic medical center, and has been recognized as one of the United States’ best hospitals, according to U.S. News & World Report. It is best known as an innovator in patient care and often as one of the first hospitals to bring new medicine to patients’ bedsides. Located at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colo., the hospital’s physicians are all affiliated with the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, part of the University of Colorado system. For more information, visit the UC Denver Newsroom.

For More Information Contact:

Erika Matich
720-848-7852
erika.matich@ucdenver.edu