Magazine article Drug Topics

Hospitals Welcome Bill to Cut Med Errors with Federal Funds

Magazine article Drug Topics

Hospitals Welcome Bill to Cut Med Errors with Federal Funds

Article excerpt

HOSPITAL PRACTICE

Possibly coming soon to a hospital near you: Technology to reduce medication errors-and nearly $1 billion in federal funds. The money is part of the Medication Errors Reduction Act of 2001, introduced in May by Sens. Bob Graham (D, Fla.) and Olympia Snowe (R, Maine). If it becomes law, the bill will provide $975 million over 10 years to help hospitals and skilled nursing facilities buy and install computer systems and other information technology to reduce medication errors.

"One of the biggest headaches has been the cost to acquire the technology," said Michael Cohen, president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, which is backing the legislation. "More than half of hospital medication errors can be cut with electronic order entry alone."

Hospitals could get up to $93 million, and SNFs $45 million, in annual grants from 2002 through 2011. The money would come from the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, with facilities serving large numbers of Medicare- and Medicaid-eligible patients getting first crack at grants. Eligible projects include computerized physician order entry (CPOE), barcoding, electronic medical records, automated dispensing systems, online drug utilization review, and simi lar computer-based technology.

"The grants would absolutely help move the investment in hardware, software, and employee training," said Kim Hawksworth, assistant manager, department of pharmacy at the Ohio State University Medical Center. Ohio State moved to a hospitalwide CPOE system in 2001. The new system has cut pharmacy turnaround time by more than two hours, boosted formulary compliance, increased adherence to drug treatment guidelines, and cut drug expenditures.

"Our pharmacists like these systems," he said. "They can read every drug order, and drug orders don't get lost. It saves time, money, and medication errors."

More than two dozen hospital, employer, and payer organizations have lined up behind the bill, including ASHP and the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy "There is no obvious downside to reducing medication errors," said AMCP executive director Judith Cahill. "If we can make any headway in cutting errors, it's all to the better for patients."

And there is plenty of room for improvement. According to the Institute of Medicine, medication errors are responsible for more than 7,000 deaths and 250,000 nonfatal injuries each year in the United States alone. …

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