Medication history taking in emergency department triage is inaccurate and incomplete

Acad Emerg Med. 2011 Jan;18(1):102-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2010.00959.x. Epub 2010 Dec 22.


Objectives: Medication error prevention has become a priority in health care. The Joint Commission recommends that a list of medications, dosages, and allergies be obtained from all patients. The authors sought to determine the accuracy of medication history taking in emergency department (ED) triage. The hypothesis was that there would be significant discrepancies between medications listed in triage and those the patient was actually taking.

Methods: This was a prospective, cross-sectional survey of adult patients presenting to the ED. As a part of regular care, nurses recorded a medication list during triage in the electronic medical record (EMR). For this study, the triage medication list was rechecked during an independent patient interview.

Results: Of 1,797 patients approached, 1,657 completed the survey (92%). The mean age was 39 years (standard deviation [SD] ±16 years). Discrepancies in medication lists obtained during triage were documented in 626 (37%) patients. Discontinued medications (163, 9.8%) were included, additional medications (463, 27.9%) were omitted, and 632 patients (38%) reported taking a nonprescription medication not listed in the EMR.

Conclusions: Medication histories performed in ED triage are inaccurate and incomplete.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Humans
  • Medical History Taking / standards*
  • Medication Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Triage / standards*