NQF: Pharmacists Should Take Greater Role in Patient Safety

Heather Comak, for HealthLeaders Media , June 29, 2009

The National Quality Forum included in its Safe Practices for Better Healthcare—2009 Update modifications to the medication management chapter. By combining four existing practices into one, the NQF has called for increased leadership and accountability on the part of hospital pharmacists.

Medication management has been a part of the NQF's Safe Practices since they were released in 2003. Currently, Safe Practices 17 and 18 concern medication safety.

"I can't think of one area that is more complicated to try and hit the right balance of," said Peter B. Angood, MD, FRCS(C), FACS, FCCM, senior advisor to the NQF in patient safety and former vice president and chief patient safety officer for The Joint Commission. Angood spoke during a recent NQF and Texas Medical Institute of Technology Webinar called "Medication Safety: Complex Issues for All."

"The difficulty comes with the fact that these are common problems, but highly complex in terms of finding solutions." Many organizations struggle with crafting policies that encourage change in the medication management process, he said.

Increased leadership by pharmacists

Pharmacists should have a larger presence on the leadership team to help navigate the increasingly complicated world of medication management, said Mary Andrawis, PharmD, MPH, director, clinical guidelines and quality improvement for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists during the Webinar. To ensure that the existing practices to prevent medication errors as well as development of new practices continue, pharmacists will be an important piece of the puzzle.

"Literature shows that when pharmacists are involved in care, the result is improved patient care, fewer adverse events, and reduced costs," said Andrawis, speaking about Safe Practice 18. "But, in order for that full benefit to be realized, it's really important that those pharmacists be given appropriate authority, and consequently that they continue to take accountability for patient outcomes."

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