Emergency department medication lists are not accurate

J Emerg Med. 2011 Jun;40(6):613-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2008.02.060. Epub 2008 Oct 1.


Background: Medication errors are a common source of adverse events. Errors in the home medication list may impact care in the Emergency Department (ED), the hospital, and the home. Medication reconciliation, a Joint Commission requirement, begins with an accurate home medication list.

Objective: To evaluate the accuracy of the ED home medication list.

Methods: Prospective, observational study of patients aged > 64 years admitted to the hospital. After obtaining informed consent, a home medication list was compiled by research staff after consultation with the patient, their family and, when appropriate, their pharmacy and primary care doctor. This home medication list was not available to ED staff and was not placed in the ED chart. ED records were then reviewed by a physician, blinded to the research-generated home medication list, using a standardized data sheet to record the ED list of medications. The research-generated home medication list was compared to the standard medication list and the number of omissions, duplications, and dosing errors was determined.

Results: There were 98 patients enrolled in the study; 56% (55/98, 95% confidence interval [CI] 46-66%) of the medication lists for these patients had an omission and 80% (78/98, 95% CI 70-87%) had a dosing or frequency error; 87% of ED medication lists had at least one error (85/98, 95% CI 78-93%).

Conclusion: Our findings now add the ED to the list of other areas within health care with inaccurate medication lists. Strategies are needed that support ED providers in obtaining and communicating accurate and complete medication histories.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Medication Reconciliation*
  • Patient Admission
  • Prospective Studies
  • Single-Blind Method