Pharmacists - take action!

The improvement of patient safety is an ongoing and long-lasting process which requires strategic planning within a realistic time frame. As such, the following are recommendations for pharmacists put forth by the Working Group, to be considered and adapted according to the specific cultural situation in each of the countries:

Pharmacists should establish and strengthen a professional network focusing on the quality chain with manufacturers, wholesalers, and other suppliers as well as the prescribing physicians to provide care to patients while involving them in decision-making.

Pharmacists should offer patients a professional environment of mutual trust and empathy to provide care and communicate their scientific knowledge.

Pharmacists should offer technical support to other health care providers and assistance with regard to the drug use review and the identification of patients at risk while on therapy with medicines.

Pharmacists should identify areas of priority concerning unsafe situations in hospital and ambulatory care settings and develop strategies to reduce them.

Pharmacists should implement a documentation process for dispensing errors.

Pharmacists should promote the effect of patient safety activities as a benefit for the patient and develop an appropriate communication process with their patients.

Currently, several instruments and practices have been  developed and tested in projects in a scientific environment but are not yet utilised sufficiently and effectively in the daily practice of pharmacy.

One of these instruments with a high potential to improve patient safety is the patient-specific medication profile. A medication profile is a list of medicines prescribed for (Rx) and purchased by  (OTC) an individual patient usually displayed over a period of 6 months.

The point of supply to the patient is marked and hence the expected duration of use calculated considering the number of tablets, capsules, etc. per package, their strength and the recommended dosage per day for the individual patient.

Based on these data, pharmacists and other health care professionals can check the medication according to the appropriateness of the drug, dose and frequency through a drug review process and obtain the following information:

  • Duplication of prescriptions
  • Interactions between medicines used at the same time
  • Compliance with chronic medication
  • Adverse drug reactions (if there is within a plausible time frame a consecutive use of a medicine indicating that an adverse reaction is being treated)
  • Contraindications (given that a disease state or a previous allergic reaction have been documented for this individual)

Effective medication order review in hospitals is facilitated by pharmacists having access to patients' medication profile, diagnosis, laboratory data, and other clinical parameters.  Similar information is not currently accessible by community pharmacies, which hampers the ability of pharmacists to conduct thorough medication reviews.  The availability of and access to a universal patient-specific medication profile could significantly improve medication therapy outcomes through better informed clinical review and advice by pharmacists.