Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 317–323 | Cite as

Adverse drug events occurring following hospital discharge

  • Alan J. ForsterEmail author
  • Harvey J. Murff
  • Josh F. Peterson
  • Tejal K. Gandhi
  • David W. Bates
Original Articles


OBJECTIVE: To describe the incidence of adverse drug events (ADEs), preventable ADEs, and ameliorable ADEs occurring after hospital discharge and their associated risk factors.

DESIGN: Prospective cohort study.

SETTING: Urban academic health sciences center.

PATIENTS: Consecutive patients discharged home from the general medical service.

INTERVENTIONS: We determined posthospital outcomes approximately 24 days following discharge by performing a chart review and telephone interview. Using the telephone interview, we identified new or worsening symptoms, the patient’s health system use, and recollection of processes of care. Posthospital outcomes were judged by 2 internists independently.

RESULTS: Four hundred of 581 potentially eligible patients were evaluated. Of the 400 patients, 45 developed an ADE (incidence, 11%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 8% to 14%). Of these, 27% were preventable and 33% were ameliorable. Injuries were significant in 32 patients, serious in 6, and life threatening in 7. Patients were less likely to experience an ADE if they recalled having side effects of prescribed medications explained (OR, 0.4; 95% CI, 0.2 to 0.8). The risk of ADE per prescription was highest for corticosteroids, anticoagulants, antibiotics, analgesics, and cardiovascular medications. Risk increased with prescription number. Failure to monitor was an especially common cause of preventable and ameliorable ADEs.

CONCLUSION: Following discharge, ADEs were common and many were preventable or ameliorable. Medication side effects should be discussed, and interventions should include better monitoring and target patients receiving specific drug classes or multiple medications.

Key words

patient safety adverse drug reactions medical errors hospital care 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan J. Forster
    • 1
    Email author
  • Harvey J. Murff
    • 2
  • Josh F. Peterson
    • 2
  • Tejal K. Gandhi
    • 3
  • David W. Bates
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of General Internal Medicine and Ottawa Health Research InstituteUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Division of General MedicineVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  3. 3.Division of General MedicineBrigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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