Purdue students track patient interventions

February 6, 2006

A quartet of Pharm.D. candidates from the Purdue University School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is tracking interventions during clerkship rotations, with an eye to gauging the impact of student recommendations in reducing medication errors and improving patient care.

Using their computers or PDAs, students in clerkships are encouraged to input the details of their patient interventions to a central database in the medication intervention tracking program that began last July and will continue through the end of this month. Seniors Tia Cooper, Karishma Deodhar, Emily Hutchinson, and Todd Walroth are overseeing the project under the direction of Brian Shepler, Pharm.D., clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice and director of experiential learning.

The 170 Purdue students in rotations this year are asked to fill out an on-line form asking the age of the patient, the types of drugs involved, and whether the intervention prevented or corrected an error. When an error is suspected, the student contacts the physician to see whether the order can be modified. The form also asks if the physician accepted the recommendation, accepted it with modifications, accepted but delayed it, or rejected it.

"The reason this project is so important is that the public thinks the pharmacist behind the counter is only dispensing medications," said Shepler. "We're hoping we can show that pharmacy students are making interventions, making a difference, and saving money. It will also help us recruit more clerkship sites to take future students."

The intervention tracking program took the four students to Las Vegas last December for a poster presentation at ASHP's annual Midyear Clinical Meeting. "We spoke with many pharmacists who were interested in the results of our program as well as the methods used to obtain the data," they said in a joint statement. "This has been a great learning experience for us. It's been interesting to see the positive response clinicians are having to student interventions. Our aim is to pave the way for future pharmacy students, fostering an interprofessional commitment to patient care."