Internal hospital transfer is a vulnerable time during which patients are at high risk of medication discrepancies that can result in clinically significant harm, medication errors, and adverse drug events.
To identify, characterize, and assess the clinical impact of unintentional medication discrepancies during internal hospital transfer and to investigate the influence of computerized prescriber order entry (CPOE) on medication discrepancies.
All patients transferred between 10 inpatient units at 2 tertiary care hospitals were prospectively assessed to identify discrepancies. Interfaces included transfers between (1) units that both used paper-based medication ordering systems; (2) units that both used CPOE-based systems; and (3) units that used both paper-based and CPOE-based systems (hybrid transfer). The primary endpoint was the number of patients with at least 1 unintentional medication discrepancy during internal hospital transfer. Discrepancies were identified through assessment and comparison of a best possible medication transfer list with the actual transfer orders. A multidisciplinary team of clinicians assessed the potential clinical impact and severity of unintentional discrepancies.
Overall, 190 patients were screened and 129 patients were included. Eighty patients (62.0%) had at least 1 unintentional medication discrepancy at the time of transfer, and the most common discrepancy was medication omission (55.6%). Factors that independently increased the risk of a patient experiencing at least 1 unintentional discrepancy included lack of best possible medication history, increasing number of home medications, and increasing number of transfer medications. Forty-seven patients (36.4%) had at least 1 unintentional discrepancy with the potential to cause discomfort and/or clinical deterioration. The risk of discrepancies was present regardless of the medication-ordering system (paper, CPOE, or hybrid).
Clinically significant medication discrepancies occur commonly during internal hospital transfer. A structured, collaborative, and clearly defined medication reconciliation process is needed to prevent internal transfer discrepancies and patient harm.