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ASHP Expresses Support For Medication Error Legislation

Kate Traynor

ASHP strongly supports legislation introduced today that would offer grants allowing hospitals and skilled-nursing facilities to invest in information technology to enhance patient safety. The Medication Errors Reduction Act of 2001 (PDF), sponsored by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Bob Graham (D-Fla.), provides assistance to facilities to implement technology—including computerized prescriber order-entry systems and automated dispensing machines—to reduce medication errors.

ASHP, which has been a long-time advocate of the development of fail-safe medication-use processes, supports the use of improved technology in hospitals and health-systems that will allow pharmacists to take on a greater patient care role. The Society believes that the grant program proposed in this legislation will help institutions deal with the high price tag of implementing technology, including the costs of staff education and training.

May 2, 2001

The Honorable Olympia Snowe
250 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Snowe:

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), the 30,000-member national professional association that represents pharmacists who practice in hospitals, health maintenance organizations, long-term care facilities, home care, and other components of health care systems, would like to commend you on the introduction of the Medication Error Reduction Act of 2001. This legislation takes an important step to assist hospitals and skilled nursing facilities improve quality of care and reduce medication-related errors.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, pointed out that as many as 98,000 patients die annually as the result of medical errors, 7,000 of which are the direct result of medication-related errors. All agree that this number is too high. Handwritten clinical data, incomplete, outdated, or improperly implemented information technology within our nation’s health system maintains the likelihood for the high number of adverse events or health care complications due to medication related errors.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), in Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health-System for the 21st Century, urges a national investment in information technology improvements in health care systems and calls for a nationwide effort to eliminate most handwritten clinical data within the next 10 years. Research demonstrates that patient-safety geared information technology enhancements, when used appropriately and under the leadership of health-system pharmacists, who are responsible for the appropriate, accurate, and timely distribution of medications, can improve quality of care and reduce medication-related errors.

ASHP hopes to foster a fail-safe medication use process in health systems. Improved technology, freeing up pharmacists to take on a greater patient care role, is an important step in this direction. The voluntary grant program for which your legislation provides allows early adopters of new technology to meet the high price tag of the technology as well as the necessary and important expense associated with properly educating and training staff on the correct use of the information system. ASHP supports this approach to improve the medication distribution process within health systems.

ASHP looks forward to a long and productive partnership to create a safer health system and better quality of care for patients. If you or your staff have any questions, please feel free to contact Kathleen M. Cantwell, Director, Federal Legislative Affairs, and Government Affairs Counsel, at 301/657-3000, ext. 1326.



Henri R. Manasse, Jr., Ph.D., Sc.D.
Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer