Healthcare News & Insights

New technology may reduce patient medication errors, cut readmissions

Medication errors are some of the biggest problems causing hospital readmissions, and they’re also a key factor contributing to rising healthcare costs.

MD002115While some errors are on the part of the hospital, sometimes patients are to blame because they don’t properly adhere to their discharge requirements. Patients will be prescribed drugs and are expected to take them properly, but it’s common that they skip doses or forget to pick up refills.

And hospitals are left responsible for their errors if they lead to readmission.

As a preventive measure, some hospitals are partnering with pharmacies to confirm that patients are taking their medication properly. And other avenues are being explored to automate the process and take some of the burden off of both hospitals and patients, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

Several insurance carriers are working with drug companies to come up with ways for patients to take their medication properly that rely less on patients’ behavior and more on technological tools that clearly show whether patients are taking their medication.

Visual cues and data tracking

Technology in the works includes medicine bottles that flash certain colors to indicate whether a patient’s taken the required dosage of medication for the day. The bottle flashes blue when the medicine’s been taken and red when a dose is missed.

There’s even discussion of creating bottles that develop dark brown spots on their surface when the prescription has expired, similar to the spots appearing on overripe bananas. This is designed to be a visual cue to patients to immediately throw the bottle away.

Proteus Digital Health, Inc., a start-up company funded by various drug companies and insurers, is currently developing medicine technology that involves placing a small sensor inside each pill. Patients will wear a small adhesive strip on their skin that transmits data to a mobile phone app about when the pill was taken. With patient permission, providers will be able to access this data to track medication compliance.

Mobile apps are also being used to reward patients for complying with their medicine regimen. San Francisco-based Mango Health Inc. has created an app that gives patients points for properly taking their medication. Points can be traded in for various prizes. The app also keeps patients safe by checking for potentially dangerous drug interactions between their prescriptions and other pills and supplements.

These advances are sure to streamline the process of getting patients to take their medications properly in time. But for now, the best way to ensure compliance is to have staff clearly communicate discharge orders to patients and their families before they leave the hospital. Have them understand the importance of taking their medication properly, as well as the consequences should they forget a dose or two.

Also remember that, even with the boost of technology, no method is foolproof, especially regarding medications. So proper follow-up for all discharged patients will continue to be essential to ensure they’re taking all medications as intended.

 

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