In a survey sent to 50 emergency hospitals across Sweden by Sveriges Radio (SR) investigative news programme Kaliber, only four of the 40 that answered were aware of how common the problem was among their patients.
“The absolutely first thing that needs to be done is to raise awareness about drug-related problems. It’s imperative that both doctors, staff and politicians in the health care sector understand the size of this problem,” said Jessica Fryckstedt, chief physician at Karolinska University Hospital (Karolinska sjukhuset) in Stockholm, to SR.
Frykstedt has studied hospital admissions caused by pharmaceuticals.
“That just goes to show that we don’t know about it, that we aren’t going to discover it, and that these pharmaceutical problems are going to be allowed to continue, and the patient will pay for it with suffering, hospital time, and incorrect medication,” she said.
Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) is currently working on new, stricter guidelines governing the prescribing of medications to elderly patients.
“We’ve looked at when a patient comes to the hospital and discovered that on the list of medications written in hospital charts there were almost two mistakes per patient, on average,” Lydia Holmdal, a geriatric care specialist at Lund University Hospital.
According to Holmdal, Lund has developed a system whereby extra care is taken to review patients’ medications to ensure that there are no adverse interactions between various drugs and that dosages are correct.
While similar systems are in place at some hospitals, officials at the health board want do implement the approach across the Swedish health care system.
“Caregivers have to have a system where people who are 75-years-old or older and have more than five medications, have their medications cross-checked at new visits, when they are admitted to hospital, when they enter home care or nursing homes,” health board head Lars-Erik Holm told SR.
He added that the extra resources required to beef up medication cross checks for elderly patients would be money well-spent, as it would help prevent problems that can often only be treated through costly in-patient treatments.