Reducing adverse drug reactions

Easing the inpatient/outpatient transition


Adverse drug reactions are a problem hospitalists encounter often. An estimated 9% of hospital admissions in older adults are the result of adverse drug reactions, and up to one in five adults experience an adverse drug reaction during hospitalization.

Pill bottles moodboard/Thinkstock

“Many interventions have been tried to solve this problem, and certain of them have worked, but to date we don’t have any great solutions that meaningfully impact the rate of these events in a way that’s feasible in most health care environments, so any efforts to reduce the burden of these problems in older adults could be hugely beneficial,” said Michael Steinman, MD, author of an editorial highlighting a new approach.

His editorial in BMJ Quality & Safety cites research on the Pharm2Pharm program, implemented in six Hawaiian hospitals, in which hospital-based pharmacists identified inpatients at high risk of medication misadventures with criteria such as use of multiple medications, presence of high-risk medications such as warfarin or glucose-lowering drugs, and a history of previous acute care use resulting from medication-related problems. The hospital pharmacist would then meet with the patient to reconcile medications and facilitate a coordinated hand-off to a community pharmacist, who would meet with the patient after discharge.

In addition to a 36% reduction in the rate of medication-related hospitalizations, the intervention generated an estimated savings of $6.6 million per year in avoided hospitalizations.

There are two major takeaways, said Dr. Steinman, who is based in the division of geriatrics at the University of California, San Francisco: It’s critical to focus on transitions and coordination between inpatient and outpatient care to address medication-related problems, and pharmacists can be extremely helpful in that.

“Decisions about drug therapy in the hospital may seem reasonable in the short term but often won’t stick in the long term unless there is a coordinated care that can help ensure appropriate follow-through once patients return home,” Dr. Steinman said. “The study that the editorial references is a systems intervention that hospitalists can advocate for in their own institutions, but in the immediate day-to-day, trying to ensure solid coordination of medication management from the inpatient to outpatient setting is likely to be very helpful for their patients.”

The long-term outcomes of hospitalized patients are largely influenced by getting them set up with appropriate community resources and supports once they leave the hospital, he added, and the hospital can play a critical role in putting these pieces into place.


1. Steinman MA. Reducing hospital admissions for adverse drug events through coordinated pharmacist care: learning from Hawai’i without a field trip. BMJ Qual Saf. Epub 2018 Nov 24. doi: 10.1136/bmjqs-2018-008815. Accessed Dec. 11, 2018.

Next Article:

   Comments ()