Medication reconciliation is the process of determining and verifying the list of medications prescribed to a patient before, during, and after hospitalization. This information must be available and accurate if any healthcare provider hopes to control costs, improve outcomes, and avoid the catastrophic consequences of a drug interaction.

Unfortunately, the logistical challenge of medication reconciliation is one of the most complex in all of healthcare. Ideally, the patient themselves would act as the best resource, but for many reasons, patients struggle to fully comprehend the exact nature of their treatment. That leaves it up to healthcare administrators to handle medication reconciliation, a process that is notoriously plagued by missed details, bad information, unavailable sources, and duplicate data.

A new study suggest that EHRs may be able to solve these problems and lend a new level of efficiency and accuracy to the medication reconciliation process. A group from the National Institute for Health Care Reform spent time intensely studying how this process currently works at 19 hospitals across 10 regions of the U.S. The study team interviewed hospital executives and EHR users while performing a close analysis of the available data.

The goal of the study was to identify how medication reconciliation is currently handled, how effective/ineffective these systems are, and what effect a switch to EHRs would have. The results, like most analysis of EHRs, confirm that a switch to electronic records would have an immediate and impressive effect on outcomes.

The collected data revealed that 33% of the participants used a partially paper-based approach to medication reconciliation at admission, discharge, or both. Many more had access to some form of external EHR that included medication histories, but those records were not widely used. In the hospitals where the processes were fully electronic, however,  medication reconciliation modules had already been put into place with positive results. Respondents reported that patients left with more user-friendly discharge instructions, and that issuing electronic prescriptions relieved a major administrative hassle.

The aims of the study were fairly limited, but they highlight the ability of EHRs to have a transformative effect throughout the healthcare industry. In order to improve on this promise, the researchers recommended enhancing the usability of EHRs, making interoperability a bigger priority, and educating providers about proper implementation and usage.

The conclusion is that EHRs have amazing potential, but the technology and all its attendant systems still needs to improve in order to reap the greatest gains. That kind of progress can only happened if dedicated HIM professionals continue to evolve the technology. If you are ready to get the most out of EHRs, work with MedPartners HIM to find the expert staff you need.