Medication Reconciliation during Transitions of Care Across Institutions: A Quantitative Analysis of Challenges and Opportunities

Appl Clin Inform. 2023 Oct;14(5):923-931. doi: 10.1055/a-2178-0197. Epub 2023 Sep 19.


Objective: Medication discrepancies between clinical systems may pose a patient safety hazard. In this paper, we identify challenges and quantify medication discrepancies across transitions of care.

Methods: We used structured clinical data and free-text hospital discharge summaries to compare active medications' lists at four time points: preadmission (outpatient), at-admission (inpatient), at-discharge (inpatient), and postdischarge (outpatient). Medication lists were normalized to RxNorm. RxNorm identifiers were further processed using the RxNav API to identify the ingredient. The specific drugs and ingredients from inpatient and outpatient medication lists were compared.

Results: Using RxNorm drugs, the median percentage intersection when comparing active medication lists within the same electronic health record system ranged between 94.1 and 100% indicating substantial overlap. Similarly, when using RxNorm ingredients the median percentage intersection was 94.1 to 100%. In contrast, the median percentage intersection when comparing active medication lists across EHR systems was significantly lower (RxNorm drugs: 6.1-7.1%; RxNorm ingredients: 29.4-35.0%) indicating that the active medication lists were significantly less similar (p < 0.05).Medication lists in the same EHR system are more similar to each other (fewer discrepancies) than medication lists in different EHR systems when comparing specific RxNorm drug and the more general RxNorm ingredients at transitions of care. Transitions of care that require interoperability between two EHR systems are associated with more discrepancies than transitions where medication changes are expected (e.g., at-admission vs. at-discharge). Challenges included lack of access to structured, standardized medication data across systems, and difficulty distinguishing medications from orderable supplies such as lancets and diabetic test strips.

Conclusion: Despite the challenges to medication normalization, there are opportunities to identify and assist with medication reconciliation across transitions of care between institutions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Medication Reconciliation*
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Vocabulary, Controlled