One aspect of healthcare that is seldom looked at as a source of danger is hospital discharge and home care. Things like medication, methods of care, and emergencies are all drastically different when handled at home, outside of a hospital's walls. While many believe that they have the ability to take care of their loved ones, the fact of the matter is that the way the healthcare industry is run leaves the average person with little to no knowledge of post-discharge care. We have looked at how hospital discharges can be motivated by money before, but a case in Missouri brings attention to the dangers patients face during and after discharge.
The Case of Joyce Oyler
Joyce Oyler was discharged from her hospital where she went for heart treatment. During Oyler's discharge there were a multitude of slip-ups, according to her family. The most egregious of these mistakes was what ultimately led to Oyler's death. In just two weeks after leaving the hospital, Oyler begin losing mass amounts of blood. She was brought into the hospital for emergency care, but ultimately succumbed, dying of blood loss. However, this blood loss was entirely unrelated to her prior condition. In fact, the blood loss was caused by the very medication she was taking to recover during the post-discharge period!
Oyler was treated for heart failure at the Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph, Missouri. After her treatment, Oyler was sent home. A hospital nurse phoned in to Oyler's local pharmacy to provide them with the prescriptions for her home care medications. One medication in particular, metolazone, was ordered over the phone call.
What Oyler received instead was methotrexate, a drug that can damage blood cell counts, organs, and other internal functions. Methotrextate is normally used in very small doses to treat cancer patients. It can be so dangerous that is considered a "high-alert" drug by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. The Institute even goes as far as to demand special practices to prevent mistakes in dispensing the drug. To make matters even worse, Oyler received instructions to take the drug daily. Methotrexate is so powerful that even cancer patients prescribed this will only take small amounts of it once or twice a week. Oyler, unfortunately, suffered the consequences of the medical care system's negligence. Oyler's family brought a lawsuit against the pharmacy and was awarded a jury verdict of $2 million.
It's Not As Uncommon As You Think
Unfortunately, Oyler's case is just one example of a problem plaguing the entire healthcare injury. The article discussing Oyler's case also reports that between 2010 and 2015, a study showed that 3,016 home care agencies had performed inadequately when reviewing or tracking new medications for discharged patients. Post-hospital care is crucial to a greater recovery, and with the healthcare industry as a whole botching these prescriptions, how can anyone trust that they are getting the right medication, and not a deadly dosage of poison?