Medication safety programs in primary care: a scoping review

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Abstract

Background

Medication safety plays an essential role in all healthcare organizations; improving this area is paramount to quality and safety of any wider healthcare program. While several medication safety programs in the hospital setting have been described and the associated impact on patient safety evaluated, no systematic reviews have described the impact of medication safety programs in the primary care setting. A preliminary search of the literature demonstrated that no systematic reviews, meta-analysis or scoping reviews have reported on medication safety programs in primary care; instead they have focused on specific interventions such as medication reconciliation or computerized physician order entry. This scoping review sought to map the current medication safety programs used in primary care.

Objective

The current scoping review sought to examine the characteristics of medication safety programs in the primary care setting and to map evidence on the outcome measures used to assess the effectiveness of medication safety programs in improving patient safety.

Inclusion criteria Types of participants

The current review considered participants of any age and any condition using care obtained from any primary care services.

Concept

We considered studies that focussed on the characteristics of medication safety programs and the outcome measures used to measure the effectiveness of these programs on patient safety in the primary care setting.

Context

The context of this review was primary care settings, primary healthcare organizations, general practitioner clinics, outpatient clinics and any other clinics that do not classify patients as inpatients.

Types of studies

We considered all quantitative studied published in English.

Search strategy

A three-step search strategy was utilized in this review.

Data extraction

Data were extracted from the included studies to address the review question. The data extracted included type of medication safety program, author, country of origin, aims and purpose of the study, study population, method, comparator, context, main findings and outcome measures.

Results

The objectives, inclusion criteria and methods for this scoping review were specified in advance and documented in a protocol that was previously published. This scoping review included nine studies published over an eight-year period that investigated or described the effects of medication safety programs in primary care settings. We classified each of the nine included studies into three main sections according to whether they included an organizational, professional or patient component. The organizational component is aimed at changing the structure of the organization to implement the intervention, the professional component is aimed at the healthcare professionals involved in implementing the interventions, and the patient component is aimed at counseling and education of the patient. All of the included studies had different types of medication safety programs. The programs ranged from complex interventions including pharmacists and teams of healthcare professionals to educational packages for patients and computerized system interventions. The outcome measures described in the included studies were medication error incidence, adverse events and number of drug-related problems.

Conclusion

Multi-faceted medication safety programs are likely to vary in characteristics. They include educational training, quality improvement tools, informatics, patient education and feedback provision. The most likely outcome measure for these programs is the incidence of medication errors and reported adverse events or drug-related problems.

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