ASHP spells out agenda for improving medication safety

August 11, 2008

Medication management and safety errors were prominent topics at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists summer meeting in June.

Medication management and safety were prominent topics at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) summer meeting in June. Members of ASHP's board of directors discussed these and other issues.

"Patients expect safe and effective care," Henri R. Manasse Jr., secretary of ASHP's board of directors, said. "We cannot have patients be injured or killed as a result of drug therapy." Janet Silvester, president and chair of ASHP's board of directors, said a primary goal for ASHP is to prevent medication errors that lead to death and serious injury. "We just need to make it stop," Silvester said.

ASHP has created an agenda to improve medication safety and advance the practice of pharmacy. The agenda includes improved quality of medication use, tools for getting the most out of pharmacy resources, a pharmacy workplace capable of meeting current and future patient needs, and health-information technologies to facilitate continuous improvement. When it comes to improving medication use, ASHP has several ways of attacking the problem. ASHP wants to be sure pharmacists are included in any movement to improve medication safety. The organization is also encouraging the development of national standards for performance measures and best practices for pharmacy practice and medication use. In addition, the ASHP Foundation will be participating in an intravenous (IV) drug safety summit. Sustainable practice standards in IV practice are needed, Silvester said. The goal of the summit, which occurred July 14-15 in Washington, was to develop minimum safe practices for IV drugs. (Drug Topics will follow up on the summit in its September issue.)

ASHP board members said they would like to see all health-system technicians trained via an ASHP-accredited training program. There are 120 of these programs across the United States. They would also like to see technicians get certification by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and have all states register pharmacy technicians.

A recent increase in residency-trained pharmacists has helped to bolster and improve the pharmacy workforce, according to Colgan. "We've got a brighter workforce than we've ever had before," he said.

THE AUTHOR is a writer based in the Seattle area.