Pharmacist elicited medication histories in the Emergency Department: Identifying patient groups at risk of medication misadventure

  • Maja Ajdukovic
  • Meredith Crook
  • Christopher Angley
  • Ieva Stupans
  • Natalie Soulsby
  • Christopher Doecke
  • Barbara Anderson
  • Manya Angley
Keywords: Medication Errors, Pharmaceutical Services, Medical Records, Communication Barriers, Australia


The Australian Pharmaceutical Advisory Committee guidelines call for a detailed medication history to be taken at the first point of admission to an Emergency Department (ED). The elderly, in particular those residing in Residential Aged Care Facilities and those with a non-English speaking background, have been identified as patient groups vulnerable to medication misadventure.

Objective: to analyse the incidence of discrepancies in medication histories in these demographic groups when pharmacist elicited medication histories were compared with those taken by ED physicians. It also aimed to investigate the incidence of medication related ED presentations.

Methods: The study was conducted over a six week period and included 100 patients over the age of 70, who take five or more regular medications, have three or more clinical co-morbidities and/or have been discharged from hospital in three months prior to the study.

Results: Twenty four participants were classified as ‘language barrier’; 12 participants were from residential aged care facilities, and 64 participants were classified as ‘general’.  The number of correctly recorded medications was lowest in the ‘language barrier’ group (13.8%) compared with 18% and 19.6% of medications for ‘general’ patients and patients from residential aged care facilities respectively. Seven of the patients (29.2%) with ‘language barrier’; 1 from a residential aged care facility (8.3%) and 13 of the (20.3%) patients from the ‘general’ category were suspected as having a medication related ED presentation.

Conclusion: This study further highlights the positive contribution an ED pharmacist can make to enhancing medication management along the continuum of care. This study also confirms the vulnerability of patients with language barrier to medication misadventure and their need for interpreter services at all stages of their hospitalisation, in particular at the point of ED presentation.


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Original Research