Referral letters to the emergency department: is the medication list accurate?

Medication errors are common when patients transfer across healthcare boundaries. This study was designed to investigate the quality of information on medicines provided by general practitioners (GPs) on emergency department (ED) referral letters. A convenience sample of referral letters to the ED of a teaching hospital was reviewed. The medication list and/or patient's drug allergy status were noted. Medicines reconciliation including patient (or carer) interview was conducted to determine the patient's actual home medication list. This was compared with the GP list and any discrepancies were identified and addressed. A total of 92 referral letters were included in the analysis of which 60 were computer-generated and 32 were hand-written. GPs provided dose and frequency of administration information in 47 (51%) of the letters sampled i.e. 44 (71%) computer-generated versus 3 (10%) hand-written; p < 0.001. In addition, the patient was taking their medicines exactly as per the GP list in 20 (22%) of cases. The patient's drug allergy status was documented in 13 (14%) of the letters.