Minimizing Medication Errors, Enhancing Patient Experience
Initiatives to improve communication about medication lead to better outcomes.
Hundreds of medications are given to patients at UF Health Jacksonville and UF Health North daily. If medications are not properly administered, it can lengthen the recovery time or even prolong a patient’s hospital stay.
“The more patients are educated about their medicine, the more they are able to take care of themselves,” said Bernadette Belgado, PharmD, director of Pharmacy at UF Health Jacksonville and co-chair of the Medication Communication Committee. “They can take responsibility for their own health care. They are able to detect if they are having an issue with their medication or if it is something different going on with their disease state.”
UF Health nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, and pharmacy residents and students all spend time educating patients about their medications. They inform them about the names and doses of each medicine, possible side effects and instructions for taking each one.
“This is also important in reducing readmission rates,” said Stephanie McCormick, PharmD, manager of education and training for Pharmacy. “With more knowledge, patients are more likely to take their medications properly and lower the chances that they will have to come back to the hospital.”
As an academic health center, residents and students play a major role in this initiative. Ten pharmacy residents are accepted to practice at UF Health Jacksonville. The department also receives around 100 students from the University of Florida College of Pharmacy annually for six-week rotations. In addition, Pharmacy has eight part-time interns who are fully integrated into the department and primarily focus on patient education. Regardless of the role, all are assigned to specific hospital floors or units, where they speak directly to patients about medications.
“For students, their education typically happens in the laboratory setting with acting and role playing with their classmates,” Belgado said. “Here, they are able to come into the hospital and talk to real patients who have real situations. They are definitely learning from that and it gives them an advantage by developing that skill.” The interns undergo proper training and are supervised by the pharmacists on duty.
The use of interns, residents and students, along with communication from nurses and respiratory therapists, ensure patients receive medication information multiple times during their stay.
“We have a process of following up with our patients to see if they remember some of the information that we’ve given them,” said Lamont Hogans, education coordinator for Respiratory Care Services. “We have an informational brochure that is given to all the patients we treat. We also developed a video depicting, among other things, how to educate our patients. Lastly, we provide re-education at discharge to COPD patients who will be using respiratory therapy medications at home.”
“Our nursing units have taken a vested interest in increasing their patients’ knowledge of their medications,” said Sabastian Webbe, nurse manager and co-chair of the Medication Communication Committee. “We have implemented various strategies, such as acknowledging nurses who consistently educated their patients on their new medications to employing unit-specific processes, such as ‘Medication in a Box.’”
Flyers with medication information are also included in patient discharge folders, signs are posted in patient rooms and nurses wear buttons to prompt patient conversation about medications and potential side effects.
“This is not just a pharmacy effort,” McCormick said. “It is not a nursing or physician effort. It involves everybody, including respiratory therapy and management. Everyone has a role to play in educating patients.”