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Safe medication practice is a priority at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System (SJMHS). Our team of quality professionals has coordinated a consistent team approach to improving medication safety for all three of our hospitals. The SJMHS Medication Safety Committee coordinates this approach. As a result of the committee’s work, over 100 process improvements have been implemented. These process changes have improved the overall safety of medication delivery and administration throughout the health care system.

The Medication Safety Committee recognizes that patients who actively participate in their healthcare are much less likely to be involved with an adverse medication event. We encourage patients to speak-up about concerns they have related to their hospital stay, especially if these concerns involve medications. An easy, effective way to ensure that you receive appropriate medication therapy is to maintain an accurate and complete list of medications you are currently taking. Present this list to your healthcare provider each and every time you seek care. This simple practice has been proven to significantly reduce medication related errors. The SJMHS Medication Safety Committee developed a tri-fold Medication Card that can be kept in your wallet and used to record current medications. The cards are available free of charge from SJMHS outpatient pharmacies, inpatient and ambulatory departments, and participating physician offices. In addition, a copy of the card can be obtained here.

One major process change has been improving the safety of intravenous (IV) medication administration. Based on our own internal data, and other national safety data, we know that complications from intravenous infusions account for the majority of serious errors in a hospital setting. As a result we made safety improvements to our IV therapy which include: standardizing IV medication concentrations across all three hospitals; enhancing our computerized physician order entry screens so infusions are ordered in the safest manner possible, and purchasing new IV infusion devices (pumps) which brought a new level of safety to patients’ bedsides. These new IV pumps alert caregivers to infusion rates exceeding maximum safety limits. In the future, these pumps will be linked directly with our physician order entry system. Linking the IV pumps with our physician order entry system will allow physicians to set or to change infusion rates of their patient’s IV therapy automatically. This will help to eliminate potential errors created when programming the pump manually by pushing buttons on the pumps keyboard.

Medication safety crosses all departments including our ambulatory pharmacy services, which includes our home infusion pharmacy and our four retail pharmacies. These pharmacies utilize the most current equipment to manage our prescription filling process. The pharmacies employ both an information system and an electronic processing system. The information system allows us to check each prescription against a patient specific profile to identify any known allergies, dosing restrictions and drug interactions. The processing system electronically scans prescriptions so that the original prescription is available for review with each subsequent refill. This system also creates a bar code that follows the prescription in each step of the process, from identification of the correct medication to patient prescription pick up. Our two systems have an interface with each other that provides the pharmacist who verifies the prescription a picture of the medication dispensed and the scanned copy of the original prescription on the computer screen in front of them.