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Giving asthma medication in hospital better than prescription, study

Researchers at Boston Medical Center found fewer children returned to the emergency room for additional treatment within 30 days if doctors gave them medications.
By Stephen Feller   |   Feb. 24, 2016 at 10:41 AM

BOSTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Children who left the hospital with medications after treatment for asthma fared better than those given a prescription to fill, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Boston Medical Center found fewer children returned to the emergency room for additional treatment within 30 days if doctors gave them medications.

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Doctors at the hospital had determined that more than one-third of prescriptions given to children were not filled in a timely fashion, often leading them to come back to the emergency room for treatment, spending more time and money.

Looking for ways to remove barriers to obtaining prescriptions -- which range from transportation, to time, to insurance to pay for drugs -- they turned their attention to the patient discharge process, setting a goal for 75 percent of appropriate patients to have their medications when they left the hospital.

"While our study was small, it shows that a fairly simple intervention can be administered by the inpatient team to help decrease future emergency department visits for patients with asthma," Dr. Jonathan Hatoun, a former researcher at Boston Medical Center, in a press release. "We might expect similar results for other diseases, though more studies need to be done."

For the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, the "Meds in Hand" program was designed to get at least 75 percent of patients their medication before leaving the hospital. To do this, an in-room delivery service was set up to prevent the need for patients to go to another pharmacy. The program also included instruction on how to use medications, increasing the chance for instructions to be followed.

During a two-year trial period, the 75 percent goal was achieved, and researchers reported patients were 78 percent less likely to come back to the hospital in the 30 days following discharge.

The idea of providing patients with medication before leaving the hospital to improve proper use and lower the number of emergency room visits is not a new one. The University of Pennsylvania instituted a similar program at Presbyterian Medical Center in 2013, and Northern Arizona Healthcare also offers the service to their patients to accomplish the same goals.

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