Health records stored on USB drives may decrease patient medication errors post-hospital discharge

Patients who receive their medical records and discharge prescription on a USB flash drive rather than a handwritten note may experience fewer post-discharge medication errors, according to a study published in the British Journal of General Practice.

A patient's medical records can be uploaded to the USB device, which is integrated with the hospital's EHR system. Study authors designed the patient-held EHR device so it can travel with the patient, and once activated, can provide a link to the patient's medication information in the EHR. Patients and providers involved in the study believed the device provided a potential solution for poor communication of medication information and limited the possibility of medication error at the primary–secondary care interface.

The study comprised 102 patients at five general medical and surgical wards of a 350-bed hospital as well as general practices in County Cork, Ireland, from January to July 2016. Researchers split participants into two groups, with the first receiving discharge prescriptions on the USB device and the second group receiving discharge prescriptions on paper. Researchers also conducted interviews with the patients, physicians and IT professionals on the USB device and paper records' clinical impact.

Results of the study showed the total number of errors among the group who received the USB device was lower than the group who received paper records. Additionally, interview participants agreed that the USB device has potential as a method to reduce error and improve medication communication between patients and providers. However, study authors noted that all interviews were conducted by the study's principal investigator, who is also a physician. The principal investigator's role as a physician could have introduced a bias among interviewees.

Study authors concluded that while the USB technology has potential to improve medication communication post-patient discharge, further studies with a larger pool of participants should be done.

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