Most hospitalized patients unaware of prescribed medications

Results of a new study show that patients who are hospitalized know little about the medications they are receiving. The study, designed to assess patient awareness of medications, also highlights how important it is for patients to understand what medications they are receiving in the hospital in order to prevent medication errors.

Medication errors are an important part of patient safety. One review found that medication errors occur in the hospital in almost one out of five medication doses. Hospitalized patients who know more about their medications can help prevent errors.

According to lead researcher Ethan Cumbler, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado Denver, "Overall, patients in the study were able to name fewer than half of their hospital medications. 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."

The study included 50 participants, between eight age 21 and 89. All of the study participants claimed they knew which medicines had been prescribed. Patients under age 60 were not able to name 60 percent of their medications that could be taken as needed. Study participants over age 65 were unable to name 88 percent of their medications. Between age groups, there was no difference in awareness of regularly prescribed medications.

The biggest medication knowledge gap regarding medications among hospitalized patients was found in medications that could be taken as needed, and included pain medications and gastrointestinal medicines. The most commonly omitted drug was antibiotics, found in 17 percent of cases.

Dr. Cumbler says, "Our study suggests that adult medicine inpatients believe learning about their hospital medications would increase their satisfaction and has potential to promote medication safety. 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."

Forty four percent of hospitalized patients in the study thought they were receiving medications that they were not. Ninety-six percent of hospitalized patients were unable to name at least one medication prescribed during hospitalization. The study shows that medication errors in the hospital could be prevented, and patient satisfaction with hospitalization could improve if patients were more aware of prescribed medications.

Journal of Hospital Medicine