Purdue News

November 21, 2005

Better patient care goal of School of Pharmacy tracking program

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Purdue University School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences began a new program earlier this year with the hopes of reducing medicine errors and increasing the interactions pharmacists have with patients.

The medication intervention tracking program, which started in July, encourages final-year pharmacy students to document each contact or consultation with a patient – referred to as an intervention – during their required four- to eight-week rotations in community pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and other health-care settings.

The information will be entered into a database where it will be evaluated in a number of areas.

"Pharmacists have always made interventions, but now we're studying the impact of those contacts," said Brian Shepler, a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice and director of experiential learning at the School of Pharmacy. "We want students, as well as other health-care professionals, to see what a crucial role pharmacists have in keeping patients healthy."

The tracking program is a trial project being conducted by four students who will receive their doctor of pharmacy degrees from Purdue in the spring. They are seeking information from the approximately 170 students in the doctor of pharmacy program who are doing rotations, mainly throughout Indiana, in their last year of college.

Each time a student makes an intervention, they are asked to fill out an online form asking the age of the patient, the types of drugs involved in the intervention and whether the intervention prevented or corrected an error. When an error is suspected, the pharmacist contacts the prescribing physician to see if the order can be modified. The evaluation also asks if the prescribing doctor accepted the recommendation as is, accepted it with modifications, accepted but delayed it, or denied it.

"Doctors often have only partial information about a patient's medication list," Shepler said. "They know what they prescribed, but not what other doctors have or what patients may be taking on their own.

"Pharmacists are specially trained to assess what other medicines, herbs or over-the-counter products a patient may be taking and inform them about the benefits, risks and possible dangerous interactions. It's important that pharmacists be known for their expertise with drugs and distance themselves from being just drug dispensers."

Shepler said this project is being well-received by both student-pharmacists and doctors. He said about 70 percent of the recommendations made to doctors so far have been accepted. And while participation by the students is not at 100 percent, he said so far about 560 interventions have been reported. To increase participation, the form can be downloaded to a personal digital assistant device for on-the-spot recording.

The students will collect information through February. They are designing a poster based on their preliminary findings and will display it at the American Society of Health Systems Pharmacists convention on Dec. 4-8 in Las Vegas.

Shepler said he would like to keep this program going every year. A possible addition could include a cost-analysis report to evaluate how much a pharmacist saved the patient through interventions. For example, pharmacists often discover that an elderly patient should take a medication fewer times a day, or the pharmacist can suggest the lowest possible effective dosage for a medicine to prevent complications from kidney damage.

"If you prevent just one of those complications, a program like this is well worth it," Shepler said.

Writer: Kim Medaris, (765) 494-6998, kmedaris@purdue.edu

Source: Brian Shepler, (765) 494-1365, bshepler@pharmacy.purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

 

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