Risk of redocumenting penicillin allergy in a cohort of patients with negative penicillin skin tests

J Hosp Med. 2013 Nov;8(11):615-8. doi: 10.1002/jhm.2083. Epub 2013 Sep 17.


Background: Even though electronic documentation of allergies is critical to patient safety, inaccuracies in documentation can potentiate serious problems. Prior studies have not evaluated factors associated with redocumenting penicillin allergy in the medical record despite a proven tolerance with a penicillin skin test (PST).

Objective: Assess the prevalence of reinstating inaccurate allergy information and associated factors thereof.

Design: We conducted a retrospective observational study from August 1, 2012 to July 31, 2013 of patients who previously had a negative PST. We reviewed records from the hospital, long-term care facilities (LTCF), and primary doctors' offices.

Setting: Vidant Health, a system of 10 hospitals in North Carolina.

Subjects: Patients with proven penicillin tolerance rehospitalized within a year period from the PST.

Measurements: We gauged hospital reappearances, penicillin allergy redocumentation, residence, antimicrobial use, and presence of dementia or altered mentation.

Results: Of the 150 patients with negative PST, 55 (37%) revisited a Vidant system hospital within a 1-year period, of whom 21 were LTCF residents. Twenty (36%) of the 55 patients had penicillin allergy redocumented without apparent reason. Factors associated with penicillin allergy redocumentation included age >65 years (P = 0.011), LTCF residence (P = 0.0001), acutely altered mentation (P < 0.0001), and dementia (P < 0.0001). Penicillin allergy was still listed in all 21 (100%) of the LTCF records.

Conclusions: At our hospital system, penicillin allergies are often redocumented into the medical record despite proven tolerance. The benefits of PST may be limited by inadequately removing the allergy from different electronic/paper hospital, LTCF, primary physician, and community pharmacy records.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / immunology
  • Documentation / standards
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Electronic Health Records / standards*
  • Hospitals / standards
  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care / standards
  • Long-Term Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Medical Errors
  • North Carolina
  • Patient Safety / standards*
  • Penicillins / adverse effects*
  • Penicillins / immunology
  • Physicians' Offices / standards
  • Physicians' Offices / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Tests / standards


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Penicillins