Recognizing National Patient Safety Awareness Week: How Consultant Pharmacists Help

Recognizing National Patient Safety Awareness Week: How Consultant Pharmacists Help

This week, we’re celebrating National Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 8-14, 2020).  According to the Institute for Health Improvement (IHI), National Patient Safety Week is an annual recognition event meant to encourage everyone to learn more about health care safety.

Consultant pharmacists play an important role in helping healthcare facilities to achieve and maintain patient safety. As our tagline here at OctariusRX states, we aim to be ‘the measure of exceptional care’: this reflects our relentless focus on patient safety.  As an organization, we’re focused on patient safety every day, but this week is a great opportunity for us to remind everyone that patient safety truly is a team effort: we appreciate those who collaborate with us daily to improve the lives of all the patients we serve.

It’s no secret: patient safety is a critical issue for everyone. According to the Institute for Health Improvement, as many as 400,000 deaths occur in the United States each year as a result of errors or preventable harm.  Consultant pharmacists help organizations mitigate risks to patient safety.


As we discussed in last week’s blog, 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.

The requirements for safe medication practices are enforced by certification bodies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as well as certification organizations such as:

In addition to monitoring and enforcing standards, the above organizations also provide tools and guidance on best practices.

Consultant pharmacists help ensure comprehensive medication management for the facilities with whom they work. At OctariusRX, we recommend each facility work with a consultant pharmacist who is specialized and an expert in their specific area of practice.

How Can a Consultant Pharmacist Can Help Mitigate Risks to Patient Safety?

  1. Look-Alike-Sound-Alike Medications: 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 ‘Look-Alike-Sound-Alike’ 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.
  2. 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 Look-Alike-Sound-Alike and High-Alert medications. If the labels on the shelf are bent, frayed or in any way hard 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

To summarize, National Patient Safety Week is an excellent time to evaluate your current medication management process. Be brutally honest in your assessment.  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 OctariusRx 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 and we’ll make it easy for you.

The Consultant Pharmacists at OctariusRx provide guidance on safe medication management, survey readiness and cost savings to ambulatory healthcare facilities/surgery centerssenior care facilities and pharmacies  We also help individual patients optimize their medications to improve their quality of life and save money.


Any health, medical or drug information on the Web Site is for informational purposes only. This information is not intended to be used, and you should not use it, as a substitute for obtaining professional healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor, a pharmacist or other qualified healthcare provider for professional healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment for any medical condition.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email