Upstate News

June 14, 2005
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

University Hospital earns top honor for medication safety practices

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – When it comes to medication safety, University Hospital is tops, according to a national survey group. The University Health Consortium (UHC) ranked University Hospital as the best performer in its Medication Safety Benchmarking project. Out of 32 top medical centers surveyed across the country, University Hospital was found to have developed the most rigorous and stringent medication safety policies and programs. University Hospital received the recognition in March from UHC.

“This is a distinct honor for University Hospital and it speaks volumes of the leadership and dedication its staff has to ensuring patient safety,” said Phillip S. Schaengold, J.D., University Hospital’s interim executive director. “This designation says is that we are without peer when it comes to putting best practices in place to enhance medication safety.”

The UHC survey reviewed patient and hospital records on eight key operational issues, including ordering and transcribing medications, preparing, dispensing and administering medications and monitoring patient reaction to medications. Sixty cases from each hospital were reviewed.

On most operational issues related to medication safety, University Hospital outperformed peer institutions and was the only hospital to meet or approach target levels for all clinical performance measures.

The success of the hospital’s medication safety program is linked to several initiatives..

“To build support and ensure that all areas of hospital operations have a stake in how we process, administer and monitor medications for our patients, it is imperative that we all be at the table for this project,” said Roy Guharoy, PharmD, director of pharmacy for University Hospital. “We sought input from administrators, physicians, nurses, pharmacists and our information technology professionals on how to address this issue.

Another significant development at University Hospital that enabled its medication safety program to succeed is the endorsement of a non-punitive medication error reporting system.

“This was key to our success,” said Karen Hirschman, RN, patient service manager who led the data collection efforts for University Hospital’s UHC survey. “This initiative moved the project ahead by leaps and bounds and made a significant difference in earning trust from our employees and seeking their input in the program.”

Under a punitive system, hospitals may only be content to blame the individual who is responsible for a medication error. Disciplinary action usually ensues and there is little follow up on how or why the error occurred beyond a review of the person at fault, Hirschman noted.

A non-punitive approach to medication errors examines why and how the system may have failed. The approach is also more likely to result in more accurate reporting of medication errors as individuals become more willing to inform others of a system breakdown.

Other enhancements University Hospital instituted for medication safety protocols include multiple checks and balances on the part of nursing and pharmacy before processing orders; large and bold typeface on drug labels; and the placement of pharmacists on various patient care floors. Another significant step to improve medication safety was implemented in 2004 when all Syracuse hospitals banned some common medication abbreviations. An illegible abbreviation can lead to an incorrect dosage or wrong drug being administered to a patient.

Ann Sedore, Ph.D., RN, the hospital’s chief nursing officer who has been the lead administrator on this issue, says the process of developing an award-winning blueprint for medication safety procedures has brought significant satisfaction for all corners of the house.

“Medication safety is a hot-button issue for hospitals today, and we were not content to address this issue halfheartedly. We knew we had all the resources under one roof to commit ourselves to being a leader in this area. The UHC honor credits the perseverance of those who have worked and continue to work to ensure the most stringent medication safety procedures keep our patients safe.”

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