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A Multicenter, Multidisciplinary, High-Alert Medication Collaborative to Improve Patient Safety: The Singapore Experience

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Background: High-alert medications can cause significant patient harm when used in error. A multicenter, multidisciplinary, high-alert medication collaborative was established in Singapore in 2009 to identify and maintain a current list of high-alert medications and to create systematic approaches for preventing and reducing the risk of medication errors and adverse drug events (ADEs) for high-alert medications.

Methods: The collaborative was led by a core multidisciplinary team consisting of pharmacists, nurses, and physicians, as well as clinical services and quality personnel, from six primary and acute care institutions. Multidisciplinary work groups were formed to drive the improvement efforts using the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles. Tracking of improvement work was conducted with an adaptation of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement Trigger Tool method.

Results: A localized high-alert medication list was developed through local ADE reports, literature review, an online survey of health care professionals, and expert opinion. Some 130 interventions were proposed to prevent, detect, and mitigate harm from the use of high-alert medications for 10 drug classes/drugs. A significant number of these interventions were tested and revised during the PDSA cycles before implementation throughout the institution and subsequent spread to other institutions. Outcome audits identified areas for improvement. The interventions, which were subsequently incorporated into the change packages, led to a 50% and 67% decline in the ADE rates for radiocontrast agents and heparin, respectively.

Conclusion: The collaborative has provided a sound framework for ongoing development and refinement of high-alert medication change packages and for sharing of ADE data and best practices across the participating institutions.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2013

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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.

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