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The nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) is joining with the American Hospital Association (AHA) in announcing a new national initiative to help hospitals examine and further improve medication safety.
As part of this national initiative, ISMP will partner with the AHA to provide hospital leaders with an inventory of successful practices for reducing errors that can be adopted in every hospital. In addition to building upon the ongoing knowledge and work of the AHA and ISMP, the practices are formulated from the work of many experts and organizations that have been studying medication safety, including the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, the National Coordinating Council on Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, the National Patient Safety Partnership, and many others.
The campaign aims to share the successful practices list with every hospital and health system, develop for hospitals a "medication safety awareness test" that surveys hospitals’ current status and future progress on medication error prevention, track implementation of the practices for reducing and preventing errors within the hospital and health system field, work with national experts to develop a nonpunitive model medication error reporting process, and serve as a clearinghouse of information and resources for the hospital field on medication errors.
The campaign was endorsed publicly by Presi dent Bill Clinton, which AHA president Dick Davidson, MD, says bodes well for its success. "We are pleased that President Clinton is showing significant leadership in this area by taking an in-depth look at the Institute of Medicine’s findings. It is going to take all of us working together to continue to improve the safety of our medical system."
The cooperative effort means the AHA and ISMP can partner more effectively with health care and public policy leaders to make a difference in patient safety, says ISMP president Michael Cohen. "Of course, we already have a good working model for reporting of errors nationally, and many health care professionals are taking advantage of it. But because better understanding of medication errors is at the heart of any prevention effort, more must always be done to improve and increase reporting. This initiative is an ideal way to do just that."
In a related move, the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) is leading the development of legislation that supports confidentiality of information submitted to national medication error reporting systems. As the nation’s drug standards-setting organization, USP is calling for protection of the information, noting that the assurance of confidentiality encourages health care providers and facilities to report medication errors, says Diane Cousins, RPh, vice president of the USP’s practitioner and product experience division. USP is developing draft legislation and will seek to build health care coalition and bipartisan Congressional support for legislation that will:
• encourage active participation in voluntary medication error reporting programs;
• facilitate development and dissemination of information on trends in medication errors — including dissemination to governmental and nongovernmental agencies concerned with medication error prevention — to stimulate development of systems to prevent medication errors;
• ensure that information developed in connection with such programs is privileged and confidential to maximize participation by health care providers and facilities;
• authorize government agencies to obtain information from voluntary medication error reporting programs on a privileged and confidential basis.
USP has been tracking medication errors since 1991 and last year introduced MedMARx, a national data repository that allows hospitals to voluntarily report medication errors to an anonymous, secure database program. The system is used by more than 100 hospitals.
"Confidentiality is a key factor in the success of our program," Cousins says. "Hospitals can compare the frequency and severity of medication err ors with other hospitals while protecting the iden tity of each institution. The anonymity breaks down significant barriers to reporting those errors."