E-Pharmacy Catches Drug Mistakes for Rural Hospitals in Five States

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , May 5, 2010

Banner Health has so far spent $180 million to install its remote medication order processing system throughout its hospitals, but Einhellig says it's been well-worth it.

Now in place almost two years, the new system "catches errors almost every day," says Ed Maurino, director of pharmacy at Banner Lassen Medical Center, a 25-bed critical access facility in Susanville, 1,100 miles away from Greeley.

"There's just so many things that they can catch that we weren't able to before," Maurino says. Errors that could cause major adverse drug-drug or drug-patient reactions might include a drug that might be bad for a patient with a low creatinine clearance rate, he says.

Einhellig's team reviews prescriptions for East Morgan County Hospital in Brush and Sterling Regional Medical Center, both in Colorado; Ogallala Community Hospital in Nebraska; Banner Churchill Community Hospital in Fallon, NV; and three hospitals in Wyoming: Torrington Community, Platte County Memorial in Wheatland and Washakie Medical Center in Worland.

All are 25-bed hospitals except for Churchill, which has 40 beds, and Sterling, which has 36.

Kerri Kilgore, director of pharmacy at Banner's Torrington Community Hospital, 151 miles to the east of Greeley, says the system is very helpful to her and her nurses. "They scan in the electronic order [to Greeley]," a process that seems to run smoothly. And it's given her some valued peace of mind.

"It used to be that it was just me, with phone calls at all hours of the night," Kilgore says. Now the off-hour interruptions are greatly minimized, except for emergencies when Kilgore is called in to administer a sensitive intravenous drug.

"It's nice to have a backup, and not have it be always be just me, 24-hours a day," she says.

Though the results have so far been promising, the process has had some challenges. One problem that they needed to overcome was dealing with different formularies available for different groups of patients in different states, and the varying ways hospitals stocked their automated dispensing machines. Once they addressed that, the program has been moving along smoothly.

Bravo Banner Health.

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Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

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