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Preventing medication errors: the importance of collaboration

How can health care providers do a better job at preventing medication errors?

As health professionals in New Mexico and across the nation grapple with this question, good ideas from other countries are certainly welcome.

And so, in this post, we will discuss a new study from Ireland indicating that better collaboration between doctors and pharmacists could help reduce the number of medication errors.

Researchers at Trinity College in Dublin led the study, which also involved Ireland's national health agency and a hospital pharmacy department

The researchers found a pronounced reduction in medication errors when doctors and pharmacists in hospitals used a more collaborative approach. The rate of reduction in medication errors upon admission to the hospital was 78 percent.

There was also a comparable reduction-in-errors figure for patients at discharge. That figure was 79 percent.

The research also noted benefits from improved communication between hospitals and pharmacists about which drugs older patients were taking. Many older patients take so many medications that there is even a term of art for it in the Irish medical community: polypharmacy.

Overall, the research showed that a team approach that promotes contacts between doctors and pharmacists throughout the period from admission to discharge promotes patient safety. Such contacts help health care providers communicate more effectively with patients and avoid medication errors.

Of course, there are many patients who are not hospitalized who also are at risk of suffering medication errors. But the emphasis on better communication in the Irish study at least shows how valuable clearer communication can be when prescribing medications.

Source: HealthCanal, "Collaborative Pharmaceutical Care in Hospitals Cuts Mecication Errors by Three Quarters - New Study, Feb. 18, 2014

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