Background Medication discrepancies at care transitions are common and lead to patient harm. Medication reconciliation is a strategy to reduce this risk.
Objectives To summarize available evidence on medication reconciliation interventions in the hospital setting and to identify the most effective practices.
Data Sources MEDLINE (1966 through February 2012) and a manual search of article bibliographies.
Study Selection Twenty-six controlled studies.
Data Extraction Data were extracted on study design, setting, participants, inclusion/exclusion criteria, intervention components, timing, comparison group, outcome measures, and results.
Data Synthesis Studies were grouped by type of medication reconciliation intervention—pharmacist related, information technology (IT), or other—and were assigned quality ratings using US Preventive Services Task Force criteria.
Results Fifteen of 26 studies reported pharmacist-related interventions, 6 evaluated IT interventions, and 5 studied other interventions. Six studies were classified as good quality. The comparison group for all the studies was usual care; no studies compared different types of interventions. Studies consistently demonstrated a reduction in medication discrepancies (17 of 17 studies), potential adverse drug events (5 of 6 studies), and adverse drug events (2 of 2 studies) but showed an inconsistent reduction in postdischarge health care utilization (improvement in 2 of 8 studies). Key aspects of successful interventions included intensive pharmacy staff involvement and targeting the intervention to a high-risk patient population.
Conclusions Rigorously designed studies comparing different inpatient medication reconciliation practices and their effects on clinical outcomes are scarce. Available evidence supports medication reconciliation interventions that heavily use pharmacy staff and focus on patients at high risk for adverse events. Higher-quality studies are needed to determine the most effective approaches to inpatient medication reconciliation.