Many older adults can’t recall their meds in the ED

Because older patients are often on multiple medications, it is critical for emergency department (ED) staff to have accurate medication records to avoid drug interactions and adverse effects. But an analysis by Goldberg and colleagues, published in Academic Emergency Medicine on May 21, showed that many older patients did not recall their medications correctly in the ED.

Researchers from Brown University, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Lifespan (Providence, RI) analyzed interviews with 168 patients aged 50 years or older (mean age of 65) about their current medications. They then compared patient-reported medication lists to pharmacy records and the electronic health record.

They found that only one in five patients were able to report their medications accurately. Overall, 77% of patients were unable to list all medications in their pharmacy records, and 79% were unable to list all medications in their electronic health record.

The study also revealed that 40% of patients reported medications they were no longer taking, 9% omitted medications, and 27% both omitted and added medications. The most common patient omissions were antibiotics (53%) and medications for urologic conditions (40%), COPD (31%), and cardiac conditions (27%). Many of the commonly omitted medications have significant potential for drug interactions that can lead to unexpected adverse events, highlighting the need for a mechanism of accurately documenting all medications when older patients are taken to the ED.