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Implementing Online Medication Reconciliation at a Large Academic Medical Center

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Background: Most examples of successful medication reconciliation (MR) programs have reported on paper-based systems, the most common of which is a standardized MR form that often serves as a medication order form. An interdisciplinary process was undertaken by Bellevue Hospital, New York City, to develop a full, online MR program.

Phase 1. Moving Beyond Paper: In 2005 Bellevue piloted a paper-based MR process. However, this effort was unsuccessful, so an online MR application that would be more accessible and easier to audit was initiated. The longitudinal outpatient medication list—the definitive, electronic medication list for patients in our system—formed the basis of the MR project. The list included every prescription written in the electronic health record (EHR). Historical medication could also be entered into the list, representing a useful function in the outpatient setting for patients who transfer their care to Bellevue and are already on chronic medications. In a two-month pilot in Summer 2006, compliance was achieved for only 20% of patients.

Phase 2. Auditing and Mandatory Functionality: In April 2007, MR was made a mandatory part of the admission process; a blocking function in the EHR prevented medication orders if the admission MR had not been completed. Compliance rates subsequently increased to 90% throughout the hospital. To "close the loop" in the reconciliation process, in November 2007, a discharge reconciliation was made a mandatory part of the discharge process, resulting in 95% compliance.

Lessons Learned: Successful implementation of admission and discharge MR suggested several lessons, including (1) mandatory functionality leads to adaptation and integration of MR into housestaff work flows and (2) an electronic MR is preferable to a paper-based process in organizations with an EHR and computerized physician order entry.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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