Department of Veterans Affairs

Save $3.5 billion/year in Medication Error Costs

Patient have difficulty understanding, remembering, and following technical, confusing medication instructions, and so may miss, double up on, or otherwise miss-take medications. When patients fail to improve as expected, clinicians may unnecessarily increase, duplicate, or change medications. Resultant poor patient health and avoidable, prolonged, more complicated hospital admissions lead to poor health outcomes and high expense. In 2006, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 1.5 million patient injuries and $3.5 billion in avoidable medical costs occur annually as a result of medication errors; cascading wage and productivity losses and remedial healthcare expenses likely magnify these avoidable costs.

Our picture-icon-based medication education process makes it easy for health care providers to quickly teach medication information to patients. Patients find it easy to understand, remember, and follow these instructions. Picture-icons indicate medications’ purposes and how and when medications are to be taken. We measure success by tracking how well patients use their picture and text medication instruction sheets to teach back the prescription information to their clinicians. The clinician can quickly and efficiently repeat the information as often as necessary to achieve a strong patient recall score.

Our picture method is simple and inexpensive to use, both in person and also remotely by electronic communication. We believe that widespread adoption of our icon-based patient medication education system will improve patient health, will promote DVA as a satisfying care provider of choice, and will help save billions of dollars to improve our national financial bottom line.

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Idea No. 14432