It’s patient safety awareness week and the OctariusRx team is helping to raise awareness. Patient safety is one of our core values and something we work relentlessly on year-round. This year, in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, we recognize the week of March 14-20, 2021 as a time to renew our focus and raise awareness of ways pharmacy consultants help make patients safer.
Patient safety and regulatory compliance go hand-in-hand. As a consultant pharmacist, I spend a lot of time helping my clients achieve patient safety. The amazing byproduct of practices that enhance patient safety is regulatory compliance. When we boil it all down, the licensing and accrediting agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC), The American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF) and The Joint Commission (TJC), exist for the sake of patient safety. Yes, there are many regulations and standards that cause a lot of paperwork and seem useless, but the genesis and intent of these requirements is to improve patient care.
We agree with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement that this week serves as a dedicated time and platform for growing awareness about patient safety and recognizing the work already being done. Despite all the good work and progress made, medical harm remains a leading cause of death worldwide, with the majority of the cases being preventable.
Consultant pharmacists help organizations mitigate risks to patient safety. As we discussed in a previous post, medications are among the two biggest risks to patient safety in ambulatory care centers. Medication safety starts with comprehensive medication management. Safe medication management requires established medication processes based on the care, treatment, or services a facility provides.
How Can a Consultant Pharmacist Help Mitigate Risks to Patient Safety?
- Confused Drug Names: These medications require special safeguards to reduce the risk of errors and avoid patient harm. A consultant pharmacist can help to make sure you’ve established, and are following, best practices. Some tips? Post your organization’s ‘confused drug names’ list for all staff members to see and refer to, and make sure the list is specific to the medications currently used at your facility. If formulary changes are made, the list should be updated too. You can develop your list based on the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) List of Confused Drug Names.
- High Alert Medications: When used in error, these drugs carry a higher risk of causing significant patient harm. High alert medications require special attention, and a consultant pharmacist can help ensure that happens. Some tips? Post the most recent list and ensure your staff is continuously educated on the contents of the list. Use warning labels for both drugs with confused names and High-Alert medications. If the labels on the shelf are bent, frayed or in any way difficult to read, replace them with fresh and clear versions. As always, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) is a great resource for obtaining a current list of high-alert medications.
- Avoid comingling of medications: Do not store more than one medication in the same container. A consultant pharmacist will analyze your process and make appropriate recommendations so that your facility avoids comingling of medications. Some tips? Though medications may not sound or look alike, keeping them together greatly increases the chances that someone will pick the incorrect medication — especially when the need for the medication is emergent.
- Give special attention to neuromuscular blocking agents: These medications require special care. Consultant pharmacists can help you safeguard these agents. Some tips? Any organization that stores these medications should develop a system to segregate, sequester, and differentiate all paralyzing agents from other medications. Additionally, they should be stored in a lidded box, when possible.
- Provide education: Educate your staff on best practices for safe medication management. A consultant pharmacist can help ensure your staff education is up-to-date and compliant. Some tips? In addition to familiarity with the items above, your staff should be comfortable with brand and generic names of medications and ways to properly monitor patients after administration.
- Evaluation: Finally, your consultant pharmacist should evaluate the effectiveness of your medication management system. This should include chart reviews, which allow for a more in-depth perspective.
National Patient Safety Week is an excellent time to evaluate your current medication management process. Remember: the safety of your patients relies upon constant oversight and improvement. If your systems are deficient, or not quite up to regulatory standards, let us help you by starting with a free assessment. If you do feel confident in your systems but worry about keeping up with the latest regulatory updates and survey trends, contact us so we can help make it easier for you.
For more information about the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, visit their page on patient safety. To discuss ways a consultant pharmacist can help you enhance patient safety and regulatory compliance, reach out to us.
The Consultant Pharmacists at OctariusRx provide guidance on safe medication management, survey readiness and cost savings to ambulatory healthcare facilities/surgery centers, senior care facilities and pharmacies. We also help individual patients optimize their medications to improve their quality of life and save money. Contact us for assistance.