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Aurora Health Care presents final report on medication safety in Walworth County

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Walworth County group reports 17% increase in accuracy of medication safety lists

Over the past 2 years, the Walworth County Patient Safety Council has studied ways of improving medication safety for patients in clinic settings and developed and implemented tools to help improve communication between patients and health care providers about medications.

With support from a 2-year $492,000 grant awarded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Aurora Health Care formed the Walworth County Patient Safety Council to study ways of improving medication safety for patients over age 55 in clinic settings. Aurora Medical Group clinics involved in the study were located in the Walworth County communities of Delavan, East Troy, Elkhorn, Lake Geneva and Walworth.

The council recently submitted its final report on its findings. Prior to the project, only 69% of the clinic medications lists were accurate and complete. After implementation of patient and health care provider tools, the accuracy of the clinic medication list improved to 81% - a 17% improvement.

"This is a remarkable achievement in many ways,'' said Kathryn Leonhardt, MD, patient safety officer, Aurora Health Care, and principal investigator of the project. "Medication management is a very complex and confusing process -- for both patients and their providers -- and improving the accuracy of these medication lists will go a long way toward helping improve medication safety. Part of our effort also involved raising awareness among patients, the community, and health care providers about the importance of managing prescription medications.''

National statistics reveal that medication errors account for an estimated 7,000 deaths annually in the U.S. Over 90% of Americans aged 65 or over take prescription medications and half of them are taking 5 or more different medicines.

The Walworth County Patient Safety Council, consisting of Walworth County residents and health care providers, worked together with the community and 2 partners -- Consumers Advancing Patient Safety and Midwest Airlines -- to develop a medication bag and a personal medication list.

In addition to these tools, educational programs were geared for a wide audience of health care professionals and included information on patient-centered care, tools for effective communication, and promoting self-management among their patients. Clinic workflow processes were changed to allow more time for medication review by the staff.

In the final tally, over 16,000 medication lists and 7,500 medication bags were distributed by health care providers at Walworth County Aurora Medical Group clinics and through community education programs.

"Members of the council should be proud of their efforts in helping us address this health care issue,'' said Dr. Leonhardt. "It was a great partnership between patients, community members and health care professionals. Special thanks to everyone who gave their time and energy to this project.''

Establishing medication safety practices will become even more important as the Baby Boomers age. They or their caregivers will need clear guidelines about prescription safety. Estimates show that 50% of the population 85 or better already have some form of dementia and that figure will likely increase. The safety council's research concluded that clear and consistent communication between the patient and the provider is a key element of ensuring medication safety.

Britt Kolar, MD, longtime family practice physician in Lake Geneva and care management medical director, Aurora Lakeland Medical Center, served as physician champion for the project in Walworth County. He said the group's findings underscore the importance of clear and consistent communication between the patient and health care providers.

"The latest studies on medication safety suggest that the more prescription medications a person takes, the higher probability for error. Our project found that communication plays a vital role in making sure that people take the appropriate medication. No process is perfect, however, a 17% improvement in the accuracy of medication lists is to be commended.''

Members of the Walworth County Patient Safety Council:

Jim Beveridge, Walworth
Debra Blue, M.D.
Debbie Bonin
Judy Borgeson, Hebron, Ill.
Susan Doemel, Whitewater
Lori Hartz, Registered Nurse
Julie Juranek
Franklin Karcher, Lake Geneva
Joyce Ketchpaw, East Troy
Mary Kloster, Registered Nurse
Britt Kolar, M.D.
Margi Kolar, Lake Geneva
Duanne Lafrenz
Kathryn Leonhardt, M.D.
Judy Melick, Registered Nurse
Henry Mol, M.D.
Lori Muzatko
Barbara Nowatske, East Troy
Patti Pagel, Registered Nurse
Mike Sarton, Lake Geneva
Jeanette Sonderegger, East Troy
Amy Snyder, Pharmacist
Gene Thompson, East Troy

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a nationally recognized leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora offers services at sites in 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

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Contact: Andy Johnson (262-767-6267)

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