Six measures to improve the safety of medication administration and delivery could cut healthcare costs nearly half a trillion dollars, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.
Among the recommendations: do a better job of engaging and educating patients about their medication, ensure timely delivery of medication and prevent errors along the continuum of care.
Technology can help providers adopt these guidelines. One recent study, for example, found that electronic health records reduced medical errors 93 percent in hospitalized HIV patients, who are at risk for medication errors when clinical staff are unfamiliar with their complex drug regimens. Most frequent errors involved hospital personnel altering medication timing and the frequency of dosages.
Those problems were compounded when patients were not engaged in their care--many simply assumed that clinicians changed their regimens for a purpose.
That perpetuated the errors after discharge, with adverse consequences along the continuum of care.
Some organizations are enlisting outside help to improve medication administration.
As FierceHealthcare recently reported, about a dozen hospitals have partnered with pharmacy chain Walgreens, which will oversee medication delivery while patients are still in the hospital.
Called WellTransitions, the program aims to improve medication adherence and patient outcomes, thus reducing readmissions. Pharmacists review prescriptions at admission and discharge, checking for potential interactions.
A Walgreens pharmacy staff member delivers the medication to the patient right at bedside, offering information on how to take the medication.
The pharmacist also schedules follow-up calls to discuss the medication regimen and answer any remaining questions, providing 24/7 phone and online support to the patient.
The IMS Institute study, "Advancing the Responsible Use of Medicines: Applying Levers for Change," recommends the following actions (click the image at right for a full-size inforgraphic on the study's findings):
- Increase medicine adherence by addressing patient beliefs and behaviors at the point of prescription and during medicine intake.
- Ensure timely medicine use that prevents avoidable and costly consequences among patients with highly prevalent diseases that increase in severity if diagnosis and treatment are delayed.
- Optimize antibiotic use to turn the tide on rising antimicrobial resistance worldwide due to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics.
- Prevent medication errors throughout the medicine provision pathway, from prescription to administration.
- Use low-cost and safe generic drugs where available to leverage the under-exploited opportunity in post-patent expiry markets.
- Manage polypharmacy where the concurrent use of multiple medicines, particularly among the elderly, risks costly complications and adverse events.
The IMS Institute study found that "medicine policy is often isolated from other healthcare initiatives in the intensifying efforts to contain costs," according to an announcement.
"Such an approach does not consider the significant impact that improved medicine use can have on overall health system spending."