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Doctors should ask questions to reduce risk of prescription error

A new study reports that open-ended questions may be the tactic that physicians and medical staff need to prevent -- or the very least minimize -- prescription errors. A prescription error can range from giving the wrong dosage to the wrong drug entirely. Either way, there is a risk for serious short- and long-term harm for New York patients.

To prevent errors and adverse drug effects, it is crucial that physicians be aware of the current list of medications that a patient is taking. However, if the physician goes by an electronic medical record or a list that is out-of-date, there is that risk of prescribing medications that could interfere with current medications. Errors like these can result in serious health issues, injury and possibly even death.

However, if physicians and medical staff took the time to ask patients a few questions at the start of a visit, it could dramatically reduce the risk of medication errors. It may even prove to be helpful to have patients bring their medications with them to an appointment every so often to ensure that the clinic has an up-to-date list of current medications. Although there is no solid research to back up how medical reconciliation works in outpatient settings, it has shown to be beneficial in reducing the number of medication errors in inpatient settings.

The recent study showed that when asking open-ended questions instead of yes or no questions, the information was three times as reliable. In fact, based on their electronic medical records, nearly 40 percent of researched patients had at least four discrepancies between what their records showed and the current medications they were actually taking. Overall, 42 percent of the listed medications did not match a patient's current list of medications and about 20 percent of those discrepancies had the potential to cause serious damage. In the event that a prescription error seriously harms a New York resident, that person or surviving relatives have the right to file a medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit to seek financial restitution.

Source: Heath Canal, "Open-ended questions improve accuracy of patient medication lists", , March 27, 2014

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