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An innovative program for increasing the safety of medication delivery is being launched by the Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF), an affiliate of the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council (DVHC).
In what local leaders envision as a model for hospitals across the country, HCIF will assist more than 70 southeastern Pennsylvania hospitals with the tools to implement 16 safety action steps designed to further improve patient safety. To create the Regional Medication Safety Program for Hospitals, HCIF has partnered with two nationally recognized leaders in patient safety, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), located in Huntingdon Valley, PA, and ECRI, headquartered in Plymouth Meeting, PA. Andrew Wigglesworth, president of DVHC, says the partnership is a unique effort to improve patient safety. He also serves as president and CEO of HCIF.
"We believe this is the first time that all the hospitals in a major metropolitan area are teaming up to collectively work on enhancing medication safety," Wigglesworth says. "Given the tremendous fiscal pressure that hospitals are under these days, this program will not only provide additional support, in terms of expertise, educational services, and technology assessment, to promote the rapid and efficient implementation of safe medication practices across the region, but will also help institutions target scarce resources."
Over the past year, the DVHC has renamed its affiliated foundation and gave it a new mission, with the HCIF now focusing on supporting programs that enhance patient safety at hospitals throughout the region. The foundation’s first initiative, the Regional Medication Safety Program for Hospitals, has a projected budget of $1.4 million, which will be utilized in the production and implementation of the tools and support designed to assist area institutions. While a majority of the funding for the program is being sought from philanthropic foundations and corporations, hospitals and health systems in the region are contributing $500,000 to launch the effort.
Mark Bruley, a vice president of ECRI, says it is difficult to estimate the total regionwide cost of implementing the 16 medication safety action objectives, as there is considerable variation in the individual safety initiatives currently in place at hospitals. "For example, the cost of implementing computerized prescriber order entry systems at an individual hospital could range from $2 million to more than $10 million, depending on the size and complexity of the institution," Bruley says.
Richard Centafont, program director of the HCIF Regional Medication Safety Program for Hospitals, says the hospitals appreciate the expertise being put at their disposal. He notes that the creation of the program ensures they have the tools needed to successfully incorporate the 16 safety objectives into their organizational structures.
The two-year program will place a major emphasis on providing tools designed to enhance existing communication mechanisms and ensure all members of the health care delivery team are aware of critical medical information for every patient. Under the program, each institution will be asked to appoint a health professional in the new role of medication safety officer, who would help coordinate and guide a hospitalwide medication safety committee at each institution.
"Innovation and commitment to patient safety have always been hallmarks of our region’s hospitals," Wigglesworth says. "By enabling hospitals to further strengthen their systems and processes, as well as supporting these efforts with tools and services, we will continue to improve already existing safe medication practices, increasing patient safety and overall health care outcomes at hospitals throughout the Delaware Valley."
HCIF is a nonprofit foundation affiliated with the DVHC. Its mission is to support innovative efforts to improve health services as well as enhance public trust and confidence in the region’s health care delivery system through the promotion of best practices in community health and patient safety in the Delaware Valley. DVHC is a membership association representing more than 150 health care organizations in Pennsyl-vania, southern New Jersey, and northern Delaware. Its mission is to assist member organizations to improve the health status of their communities and to exercise leadership in the appropriate restructuring of the regional health care delivery system through advocacy, information, and education in the public interest.