ECRI Institute has identified medication-related events as one of the most frequent safety risks facing ambulatory care patients.
The independent, non-profit patient safety organization came to this conclusion after analyzing nearly 4,400 adverse events reported by physician practices, ambulatory care centers, and community health centers between December 2017 and November 2018, according to a news release.
Nearly a quarter of the adverse events involved medication safety. This only trailed diagnostic testing errors, which accounted for nearly half of the events.
As ECRI breaks down in its "Deep Dive: Safe Ambulatory Care, Strategies for Patient Safety & Risk Reduction" report, two-thirds of the medication safety events reported were classified as "wrong" errors (e.g., wrong drug, wrong patient, or wrong time). Of the events that fell into the "wrong" category, 34% described wrong-drug errors, 17% described overdoses, 16% described wrong-patient errors. 8% described underdoses, and 9% described wrong-time errors, among others
The remaining medication events were classified as "other categories, included monitoring errors" (16%), "prescription/refill delayed" (7%), "dose omission" (4%), "extra dose" (3%), and "medication list incorrect" (3%).
In its report, ECRI provides more than a dozen recommendations to help prevent adverse medication events. They include the following:
- Focus medication safety improvement efforts by identifying priority areas and developing initiatives to address those areas.
- Establish and implement standardized policies and procedures that incorporate best practices and guidelines for each part of the medication management process.
- Provide information and training, as needed, when new drugs or medication-related technologies are adopted.
- Allow sufficient time to plan for the adoption of technology to minimize medication errors.
- Educate patients and families on potential complications associated with the medications they are taking and instruct them on what to do if a medication-related event occurs.
As Dr. Marcus Schabacker, president and chief executive officer of ECRI Institute, states,
"As healthcare delivery shifts from hospitals to ambulatory care settings, it can be challenging to coordinate care among various clinicians, systems, and facilities, raising the potential for errors that put patients at risk."
A Network for Excellence in Health Innovation report notes that serious preventable medication errors occur in 3.3 million outpatient visits in the United States, and preventable outpatient medication errors cost approximately $4.2 billion annually.
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