A national survey of inpatient medication systems in English NHS hospitals

BMC Health Services Research (Impact Factor: 1.71). 02/2014; 14(1):93. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6963-14-93
Source: PubMed


Systems and processes for prescribing, supplying and administering inpatient medications can have substantial impact on medication administration errors (MAEs). However, little is known about the medication systems and processes currently used within the English National Health Service (NHS). This presents a challenge for developing NHS-wide interventions to increase medication safety. We therefore conducted a cross-sectional postal census of medication systems and processes in English NHS hospitals to address this knowledge gap.
The chief pharmacist at each of all 165 acute NHS trusts was invited to complete a questionnaire for medical and surgical wards in their main hospital (July 2011). We report here the findings relating to medication systems and processes, based on 18 closed questions plus one open question about local medication safety initiatives. Non-respondents were posted another questionnaire (August 2011), and then emailed (October 2011).
One hundred (61% of NHS trusts) questionnaires were returned. Most hospitals used paper-based prescribing on the majority of medical and surgical inpatient wards (87% of hospitals), patient bedside medication lockers (92%), patients' own drugs (89%) and 'one-stop dispensing' medication labelled with administration instructions for use at discharge as well as during the inpatient stay (85%). Less prevalent were the use of ward pharmacy technicians (62% of hospitals) or pharmacists (58%) to order medications on the majority of wards. Only 65% of hospitals used drug trolleys; 50% used patient-specific inpatient supplies on the majority of wards. Only one hospital had a pharmacy open 24 hours, but all had access to an on-call pharmacist. None reported use of unit-dose dispensing; 7% used an electronic drug cabinet in some ward areas. Overall, 85% of hospitals had a double-checking policy for intravenous medication and 58% for other specified drugs. "Do not disturb" tabards/overalls were routinely used during nurses' drug rounds on at least one ward in 59% of hospitals.
Inter- and intra-hospital variations in medication systems and processes exist, even within the English NHS; future research should focus on investigating their potential effects on nurses' workflow and MAEs, and developing NHS-wide interventions to reduce MAEs.

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Available from: Nick Barber, Mar 14, 2014
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    • "The chronological handwritten case notes and treatment plans provided a diary of patients’ ongoing care. Inpatient prescribing was paper-based, using preformatted drug charts typical within the UK; [18] electronic discharge summaries (Electronic Discharge Communication; EDC) were computer-generated using locally developed discharge prescribing software. Users of the EDC system were prompted to enter information in specific sections which were then printed for dispensing of discharge medication. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Adverse drug reactions, poor patient adherence and errors, here collectively referred to as medication-related harm (MRH), cause around 2.7-8.0% of UK hospital admissions. Communication gaps between successive healthcare providers exist, but little is known about how MRH is recorded in inpatients’ medical records. We describe the presence and quality of MRH documentation for patients admitted to a London teaching hospital due to MRH. Additionally, the international classification of disease 10th revision (ICD-10) codes attributed to confirmed MRH-related admissions were studied to explore appropriateness of their use to identify these patients. Methods Clinical pharmacists working on an admissions ward in a UK hospital identified patients admitted due to suspected MRH. Six different data sources in each patient’s medical record, including the discharge summary, were subsequently examined for MRH-related information. Each data source was examined for statements describing the MRH: symptom and diagnosis, identification of the causative agent, and a statement of the action taken or considered. Statements were categorised as ‘explicit’ if unambiguous or ‘implicit’ if open to interpretation. ICD-10 codes attributed to confirmed MRH cases were recorded. Results Eighty-four patients were identified over 141 data collection days; 75 met our inclusion criteria. MRH documentation was generally present (855 of 1307 statements were identified; 65%), and usually explicit (705 of 855; 82%). The causative agent had the lowest proportion of explicit statements (139 of 201 statements were explicit; 69%). For two (3%) discharged patients, the causal agent was documented in their paper medical record but not on the discharge summary. Of 64 patients with a confirmed MRH diagnosis at discharge, only six (9%) had a MRH-related ICD-10 code. Conclusions Availability of information in the paper medical record needs improving and communication of MRH-related information could be enhanced by using explicit statements and documenting reasons for changing medications. ICD-10 codes underestimate the true occurrence of MRH.
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    ABSTRACT: Research has documented the problem of medication administration errors and their causes. However, little is known about how nurses administer medications safely or how existing systems facilitate or hinder medication administration; this represents a missed opportunity for implementation of practical, effective, and low-cost strategies to increase safety. To identify system factors that facilitate and/or hinder successful medication administration focused on three inter-related areas: nurse practices and workarounds, workflow, and interruptions and distractions. We used a mixed-methods ethnographic approach involving observational fieldwork, field notes, participant narratives, photographs, and spaghetti diagrams to identify system factors that facilitate and/or hinder successful medication administration in three inpatient wards, each from a different English NHS trust. We supplemented this with quantitative data on interruptions and distractions among other established medication safety measures. Overall, 43 nurses on 56 drug rounds were observed. We identified a median of 5.5 interruptions and 9.6 distractions per hour. We identified three interlinked themes that facilitated successful medication administration in some situations but which also acted as barriers in others: (1) system configurations and features, (2) behaviour types among nurses, and (3) patient interactions. Some system configurations and features acted as a physical constraint for parts of the drug round, however some system effects were partly dependent on nurses' inherent behaviour; we grouped these behaviours into 'task focused', and 'patient-interaction focused'. The former contributed to a more streamlined workflow with fewer interruptions while the latter seemed to empower patients to act as a defence barrier against medication errors by being: (1) an active resource of information, (2) a passive information resource, and/or (3) a 'double-checker'. We have identified practical examples of system effects on work optimisation and nurse behaviours that potentially increase medication safety, and conceptualized ways in which patient involvement can increase medication safety in hospitals.
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