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New Study Shows Medication Safety Improving, Still a Major Concern for Nurses

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Specializes in CCU, Geriatrics, Critical Care, Tele. Has 27 years experience.

atlanta, june 2 / results of a national research study conducted by harris interactive® and commissioned by mckesson show that 72 percent of frontline registered nurses surveyed believe that medication safety has improved in their hospital over the last five years. eighty percent of those nurses identified technology as a major contributor to that improvement. however, 94 percent of respondents polled reported seeing one or more serious medication errors within that same timeframe, indicating that much work remains to be done to improve safety in the nation's hospitals.

these results are among the key findings in a study conducted in april 2005, which surveyed 216 experienced registered nurses selected randomly from hospitals across the united states with at least 125 beds. the purpose of the study was to learn how frontline nurses view their jobs, the current state of medication use and the extent to which technology is being employed to make healthcare safer. the findings will be released today at the first annual nursing leadership congress, an invitational event in sonoma, calif., focused on medication safety.

the study found that less than half of nurses surveyed (43 percent) use online documentation tools at a nursing station. only 32 percent of respondents surveyed use these tools at the point of care. while automated medication cabinets are by far the most commonly used technology (cited by 70 percent of respondents), bar-code medication administration tools are used by only 23 percent of nurses polled. scanning bar codes on patient wristbands enables nurses to check for the "five rights" of medication safety -- right patient, right drug, right dose, right time and right route -- before administering medications to patients.

"despite the availability of advanced technologies for making care both safer and more efficient, nurses are largely still practicing in a manual, paper-based world that by nature is very complex," said billie waldo, m.s., r.n., b.c., mckesson's vice president and general manager of medication safety. "combined with nursing shortages in many parts of the country, it's not difficult to understand why errors occur. however, we owe it to both nurses and patients to make tools available that not only prevent errors but also lead to better care. bar-code scanning and online documentation at the bedside are great examples of solutions that help nurses to achieve these goals while enabling more time with patients."

mckesson has been at the forefront of major breakthroughs in medication management, including robotic drug dispensing and bar-code medication scanning at the point of care. with more than 44 million medications scanned by mckesson customers every year, mckesson leads the industry in bar-coded medication administration. the company's solutions issue more than 400,000 alerts to hospital staff each week, helping to prevent an estimated 56,000 medication errors.

at presbyterian healthcare services in albuquerque, n.m., nurses' practice of scanning bar codes on patient wristbands has led to a 77.9 percent reduction in medication errors, with uncharted medications reduced to less than .05 percent. concord hospital in concord, n.h., reduced its already low medication error rate by 80 percent when it introduced bedside bar-code scanning of medications in 1994. this reduced error rate has been sustained for more than 10 years while improving productivity and efficiency, which has increased clinician satisfaction and retention.

"starting with the most senior levels in hospitals, we must be firmly committed to the people, process and technology changes that are required to create safe, high-quality healthcare environments," said marilyn bowcutt, m.s.n, r.n., president of the american organization of nursing executives and vice president of patient care services at university health system (uhs) in augusta, ga. "to achieve safer care, we must understand what frontline nurses are thinking and experiencing. from there, we can look at the role technology and other factors can play in making the hospital environment both safer for patients and more supportive and rewarding for nurses."

uhs is one of only 132 hospitals in the country to receive the magnet award, which recognizes nursing leadership and safe, high-quality care provided by the nursing staff. uhs nurses have online access to patient information and chart patient care online, and the hospital is in the process of implementing bar-code scanning of medications at the point of care.

"nurses know firsthand how heavier patient loads, sicker patients and growing regulatory requirements can affect safety," said shayne roberson, r.n., a staff nurse at uhs and a member of the shared governance coordinating council. "strategies to improve patient safety are a constant focus for us. the use of medication cabinets and online patient charting have absolutely made a difference. there's less paperwork, and they provide an extra safety net that nurses really appreciate. we're now moving toward bar-code scanning, which will further improve the safety of the medication use process."

other findings

the survey's findings, located on mckesson's web site (http://mpt.mckesson.com ), confirm some commonly held beliefs about nursing but challenge others. besides technology, an environment that supports the examination of errors (69 percent) is a reason cited for improvements in medication safety by respondents who feel medication safety is better in their own hospital. other reasons given include better communications between nurses and pharmacists (57 percent), and better communications between nurses and doctors (49 percent).

among those nurses surveyed who responded that there are times when medication errors are more likely to occur, 72 percent said that administering an unfamiliar medication is a time they are most concerned that a medication error may occur, supporting the need for more education about new drugs and better communication between nurses and pharmacists. patient transfers ( 53 percent) and shift changes (52 percent) were also identified as times when these respondents were most concerned that errors may occur.

about mckesson

mckesson corporation is a fortune 15 healthcare services and information technology company dedicated to helping its customers deliver high-quality healthcare by reducing costs, streamlining processes, and improving the quality and safety of patient care. over the course of its 170-year history, mckesson has grown by providing pharmaceutical and medical-surgical supply management across the spectrum of care; healthcare information technology for hospitals, physicians, homecare, and payors; hospital and retail pharmacy automation; and services for manufacturers and payors designed to improve outcomes for patients. for more information, call 800-981-8601, or visit www.mckesson.com.

about harris interactive

harris interactive inc. (www.harrisinteractive.com), the 15th largest and fastest-growing market research firm in the world, is a rochester, ny-based global research company that blends premier strategic consulting with innovative and efficient methods of investigation, analysis and application. known for the harris poll® and for pioneering internet-based research methods, harris interactive conducts proprietary and public research to help its clients achieve clear, material and enduring results. harris interactive combines its intellectual capital, databases and technology to advance market leadership through its u.s. offices and wholly owned subsidiaries, hi europe in london (www.hieurope.com), novatris in paris (www.novatris.com), and through an independent global network of affiliate market research companies.

survey methodology

harris interactive® conducted the online survey within the united states on behalf of mckesson between april 7 and 27, 2005, among 216 registered nurses who have at least five years experience and work in hospitals with at least 125 beds. data were not weighted and therefore reflect only the sample of nurses surveyed. though this online sample is not a probability sample, in theory, with probability samples of this size, harris interactive estimates with 90 percent certainty that the overall results have a sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points. sampling error for the sub-sample results of nurses who believe medication safety has improved in their hospital over the last five years (156) and nurses who feel there are times when medication errors are more likely to occur (189) is higher and varies.

source: mckesson corporation

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