The Dangers of Hospital Discharge

The time after a hospital discharge can be potentially one of the most dangerous. This is mainly because any mistakes that are made with surgery, diagnosis, or medication are less likely to be monitored by the patients themselves, by home care agencies, nursing homes, or any other of the plethora of care agencies that might be involved after discharge.

Medication mistakes are the most common post-discharge problem

Medication mistakes are regarded by federal health authorities as some of the most common causes of post-discharge complications. Health inspectors found that over 3,000 ‘me health agencies between 2010 and 2015 had failed to review medications for patients released into their care after a period in hospital. In some cases, nurses failed to notice that medications that had been prescribed consisted of a dangerous cocktail of drugs. Typical health complications included kidney damage, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, and bleeding. The numbers represented 25% of agencies inspected.

It is partly the diversity of providers that contributes to potential health problems post-discharge. A lack of effective communication between these diverse providers is a common source of error. The chief medical officer at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a non-profit organization, has reported that none of the 30 billion dollars made available by Congress to digitize medical records has ended up in nursing homes, and home care agencies working with individuals on their own homes or rehabilitation services.

  • Roughly half of the individual patients discharged by hospitals have said that they are confident in understanding instructions on packets of drugs they have been prescribed.
  • A third of nursing homes have been found to have failed to assess patients’ needs thoroughly enough, prepare a plan or carry through with the plan.
  • One in eight home care agencies were funded so deficient in their care plan or attention to medication that they were removed from the Medicare program during the last 10 years.

Typical medication error on hospital discharge

Joyce Oyler, a Missouri woman, died after taking the wrong drug after discharge from the hospital in October 2013 following treatment for congestive heart failure. Her daughter discovered that her mother had been taking the wrongly prescribed drug too late after Mrs. Oyler experienced bleeding from her nose and bowels two weeks after she had left the hospital.

It was discovered how the mistake had been made. A nurse at the hospital had phoned through the prescription for 8 different drugs to a local pharmacy. The pharmacy technician in this case somehow wrote down the wrong drug. She substituted the drug methotrexate for metolazone. Metolazone is an anti-diuretic, meant to be taken daily. Methotrexate is an entirely different drug and much more potent. Joyce Oyler continued to take methotrexate on a daily basis when she should have been taking metolazone with fatal consequences. Even when methotrexate is correctly prescribed, it is not supposed to be taken more than once a week.

Oyler’s family filed wrongful death lawsuits against both the pharmacy and the hospital. The pharmacist admitted that mistakes had been made when the technician took down the drug list from the hospital nurse. In fact, a check on the spelling the technician used showed numerous errors. Unlike Mississippi, Missouri has a cap on non-economic damages and the judge at the trial reduced the compensation settlement from the 2 million dollars claimed to $125,000.

Just as worrying was the fact that the medication error was not picked up by the hospital’s home health care staff after discharge. The mistake in the drug taken should have been spotted easily because a list of all the correct drugs to be taken was supplied to care assistants at Mrs. Oyler’s home. The hospital settled for $225,000 in damages. The $350,000 cap imposed by Missouri consisted of both the two settlements added together.

Contact a Jackson Mississippi medical negligence attorney

Medication errors and other examples of medical negligence during or after a hospital discharge are commonplace. If you, or a member of your family, have been the victim of any post-discharge medical complication as a result of negligence on the part of medical personnel, contact a medical negligence attorney at the Diaz Lawn Firm in Jackson, Mississippi to discuss your legal options. Contact the Diaz Law Firm online or call the office at 601-607-3456 today.