CA providers advised on safe prescribing, education

As part of an ongoing campaign to promote patient safety, the California Medical Association (CMA) and a group of liability insurers are sending recommendations for safe prescribing and measures for educating patients about proper medication use to 50,000 providers.

"Safe Medication Principles" was developed by physicians and risk managers representing the 35,000-member CMA and three physician-sponsored professional liability insurers MIEC, NORCAL, and SCPIE, which collectively insure most California physicians. The document encourages physicians to ensure that their patients understand the proper use and potential side effects of their medicine, says John Whitelaw, MD, CMA president. Statewide dissemination of the principles is part of a new focused program by CMA and the liability insurers.

Based on recommendations from a number of medical and liability experts, the principles are reminders of good medical practices. They are part of an overall effort to reduce patient injuries, which may be caused by illegible handwriting, unclear prescription information, duplication of prescription drugs, and inadequate patient understanding about the medications they take. To ensure that prescriptions are clear to pharmacists, Whitelaw says the principles emphasize the use of legible, standardized abbreviations and terminology on prescriptions, improved documentation of medications and refills, and close monitoring of the effectiveness and potential side effects of prescribed drugs.

Whitelaw also says physicians must be aware of all pharmaceuticals and other substances such as herbs and food supplements that their patients receive, in order to reduce medication interactions and other problems. Improving patient adherence to medication advice and reducing the risks of adverse reactions require a strong partnership between patients and their physicians, he says.

The CMA principles can be assessed on-line at www.cmanet.org. Look under "For Your Information" on the home page.