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Electronic Health Record–Based Monitoring of Primary Care Patients at Risk of Medication-Related Toxicity

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Background: Timely laboratory monitoring may reduce the potential harm associated with chronic medication use. A study was conducted to determine the proportion of patients receiving National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA)–recommended laboratory medication monitoring in a primary care setting and to assess the effect of electronic health record (EHR)–derived, paper-based, provider-specific feedback bulletins on subsequent patient receipt of medication monitoring.

Methods: In a single-arm, pre-post intervention in two federally qualified community health centers in Baltimore, patients targeted were adults prescribed at least 6 months (in the preceding year) for at least one index medication (digoxin, statins, diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors/angiotensin II–receptor blockers) in a 12-month period (August 2008–July 2009).

Results: Among the 2,013 patients for whom medication monitoring was recommended, 42% were overdue for monitoring at some point during the study. As the number of index medications the patient was prescribed increased, the likelihood of ever being overdue for monitoring decreased. Being listed on the provider-specific monitoring bulletin doubled the odds of a patient receiving recommended laboratory monitoring before the next measurement period (1–2 months). Limiting the intervention to the most overdue patients, however, mitigated its overall impact.

Conclusions: Recommended laboratory monitoring of chronic medications appears to be inconsistent in primary care, resulting in potential harm for individuals at risk for medication-related toxicity. EHRs may be an important component of systems designed to improve medication monitoring, but multimodal interventions will likely be needed to achieve high reliability.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2012

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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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