Most Hospital Patients Are Unaware of What Medicines They Receive

If you’ve ever been hospitalized, did you know what medicines you received? A new survey published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine found that an appalling 96% of hospital patients were unable to name medications they received during their hospital stay. This has an obvious and dangerous impact on the rate of medication errors in hospitals.

“I don’t think that’s surprising at all. I think that that’s the natural consequence of the way in which hospital culture is designed. Patients are given their medicines and they take their medicines,” said study author Dr. Ethan Cumbler, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Denver and director of the University of Colorado Hospital Acute Care for Elderly Service.

Dr. Cumbler notes that this hospital culture is the opposite of the one which exists in the outpatient setting where patients are expected to know what pills they’re taking, when they’re taking them, and the purpose for the pill.

How can hospital patients act as their own best advocate and help eliminate medication errors if they don’t even know what pills they’re taking and for what purpose? This is a problem that exacerbates medication errors and makes patients victims rather than advocates in their own health.

However, there are methods to combat this hospital culture. First, ask the person dispensing the medication the name of the medication and its purpose. Second, ask if there are any side effects. Third, consult with your treating physician about medication treatment options.