Quality & Patient Safety

Right dose, right drug: WHO challenges hospitals to cut med errors in half

Patient Safety Monitor, June 1, 2017

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At the end of March, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced its third global safety initiative, the Global Patient Safety Challenge on Medication Safety, which calls on facilities to cut the rate of medication-related errors in half by 2022. The organization hopes to do this by:
•    Addressing weaknesses and flaws in how drugs are prescribed, distributed, and consumed
•    Providing education on safer and more effective prescribing habits and methods
•    Increasing patient and provider awareness on the dangers of medication errors

Worldwide, medication errors cause at least one death per day and cost an estimated $43 billion annually (1% of global health expenditures). In the U.S. alone, 1.3 million people are injured annually due to medication errors. All these errors are potentially avoidable, says the WHO, so long as the right systems and procedures are put into action.

“We all expect to be helped, not harmed, when we take medication,” wrote Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, in the press release (https://goo.gl/4pRbYB). “Apart from the human cost, medication errors place an enormous and unnecessary strain on health budgets. Preventing errors saves money and saves lives.”

Can it be done?
Joe Kiani, founder of the Patient Safety Movement Foundation (PSMF) and chair and CEO of the Masimo Corporation, has high hopes the WHO will achieve its goal of 50% harm reduction; as proof, he points to the success of the organization’s first global patient safety challenge on hand hygiene (www.who.int/gpsc/en). 

“I think over 50 countries and nearly 20,000 hospitals have joined [the Clean Care Is Safe Care challenge],” he says. “They’ve reported that they are saving 7–8 million lives a year from it. So yes, I believe they can do it [with medication errors].”

He says the people behind the project are very serious, dedicated, and caring, and he’s excited at the initiative’s potential.

“This is one of the areas we’ve been pushing for at [PSMF],” he says. “Safe medications, dosage, and prescription. We’re delighted to get this reinforcement from WHO.”

Megan Maddox, PharmD, BCPS, CDE, medication safety officer at Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, says she’s thrilled that the WHO is shining a spotlight on medication safety.

“This [medicine] is what we send people home on from the hospital,” she says. “They don’t go home and do procedures on themselves or surgery. That’s done at the hospital, and what we do to keep them well and out of the hospital is treat them with medication. Making medication safety a priority and having people really emphasizing patient understanding in what they’re taking and what for—I think it’ll have a very positive impact on keeping our patients safe and really keeping sure medications effectively work for our patients.”

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Patient Safety Monitor.

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