Tools for Reducing Drug Errors: Pathways for Medication Safety

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Drug prescription and administration errors cause about 7,000 deaths per year in the United States. A Medication Safety Self Assessment survey of more than 1,400 hospitals was used to develop tools that address this critical health care issue. "Pathways for Medication Safety," a joint project of the American Hospital Association, the Health Research and Educational Trust, and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, with support from the Fund, can be customized to meet the needs of individual organizations. The three tools, which are available at no cost, were designed to help hospital leaders incorporate medication safety into their strategic plans, identify error-prone processes and devise safe alternatives, and implement bedside bar-coding systems for administering medications. The tools are designed as hands-on worksheets for practical use. The first set lays out goals for creating a model plan for medication safety and then provides guidelines on assembling a team, assessing current conditions, and developing projects to create change. The second set employs "Failure Mode and Effects Analysis," a process developed by product engineers to help hospitals identify and prevent medication problems. For example, nurses answer a series of questions about their drug administration routines and then take specific actions based on their responses, such as notifying the pharmacy about any new allergies or changes in a patient's status. The third set of tools includes questions that allow hospitals to assess their level of readiness to implement a bedside, bar-coded drug administration system, including the adequacy of their drug labeling, storage, and distribution. To view the tools, visit www.medpathways.info.

August 2004

Publication Details

Publication Date: August 18, 2004

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