Discharging patients with prescriptions instead of medications: Sequelae in a teaching hospital

Kevin B. Johnson, Jeanne K. Butta, Pamela K. Donohue, Donald J. Glenn, Neil A. Holtzman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Objective. This study measures the incidence of discrepancies among written prescriptions, medication regimens transcribed onto patient discharge instruction sheets (DCIs), and labels on medications dispensed by community pharmacies after discharge of patients from an academic medical center. Methods. During a 2-month study period, we collected copies of prescriptions and DCIs. We also called care givers after discharge and asked them to read the medication labels that were filled from discharge prescriptions. Care givers were also asked whether they received instruction from community pharmacists. Results. Data were collected on 335 prescriptions for 192 patients. Differences among the prescriptions, DCIs, and medication labels were found for 40 (12%) of the medications prescribed at discharge, representing 19% of the patients studied. Nineteen prescriptions had prescriber errors in dosing frequencies or dosage formulations. Three prescriptions were filled with different medication concentrations or strengths than requested. Prescriptions were altered by the community pharmacists for unexplained reasons in 6 cases, whereas the DCIs and original prescriptions differed in 12 cases. Only 44% of families were counseled about proper medication administration by their pharmacists. Conclusions. A potential for medication errors exists when pediatric patients are discharged with unfilled prescriptions. The potential may be worsened when discharge instructions are created from a prescription rather than from the label of a dispensed medication. Educational and risk-management efforts should emphasize the importance of writing complete, legible prescriptions and consulting appropriate reference materials to ensure that dose formulations and guidelines are accurate. Whenever possible, prescriptions should be filled before patients are discharged, so that the dispensed medications can be reviewed, and health care providers can provide accurate discharge instructions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-485
Number of pages5
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 1996


  • medication errors
  • nursing
  • pediatrics
  • residency education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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