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ISMP Calls For Hospitals To Employ Medication Safety Officers

A prominent consumer drug safety group is calling on hospitals nationwide to employ medication safety officers, indicating that they would help protect patients from medication errors that result in serious and life-threatening injuries. 

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) issued a white paper (PDF) this month, detailing why it is calling for Medication Safety Officers (MSO) to be a part of hospital healthcare teams. The group indicates that its own assessment of hospital safety suggests that those with facilities with an MSO are better at protecting patients from medication mistakes.

The policy paper notes that the Institute of Medicine, now known as the National Academy of Medicine, found in 2007 that “each of the annual 1.5 million hospitalized patients experience, on average, one medication error a day.” In addition the ISMP notes that more recent data suggests that adverse drug events and medication errors occur in one out of every 20 surgeries and is a major cause of hospital readmissions in older adults.

The global cost of medication errors and suboptimal medication use is estimated to be about $500 billion a year.

ISMP indicates that Medication Safety Officers can reduce many of those incidents, as well as generate significant savings for hospitals and patients. The paper notes that this is backed up by data from hospitals where such positions are already in place.

“I have had the opportunity over many years to work closely with our Medication Safety Officers (MSOs). With this collaboration, I have always been impressed by their specialized understanding of the medication-use system and the many medication related error mechanisms encountered in our complex hospital environment,” Johns Hopkins Hospital President Redonda Miller, states in the report. “While it is not possible to calculate the savings associated with their efforts, I have no doubt that our MSOs are a cost effective and valuable asset, and without them, our ongoing patient safety efforts would be at a disadvantage.”

The medication safety officer position is a leadership role designed to coordinate medication safety improvements and strategies for a hospital or healthcare facility. They act as stewards of knowledge on medication safety, develop strategies for improving medication safety in a facility and share and collect medication error reporting data, among other duties.

It is unclear how many such positions are currently in action in U.S. hospitals. The ISMP report notes that there are 189 different titles currently in use for the position here. The position has existed in some hospitals since about 2013, and the United Kingdom made them a requirement at the hospital level in 2014. There are now about 450 Medication Safety Officers in the U.K.

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