Medication Reconciliation: There to keep you safe

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When it comes to health promotion and prevention, few things can keep you safer than proper medication management.

For patients, this includes ensuring you always take your medications as directed and that you carry a detailed and up-to-date list of all your medications when accessing medical care; it’s one of biggest things you can do to keep yourself safe.

For healthcare providers, this means always performing medication reconciliation upon admission, transfer and discharge to ensure accurate and comprehensive medication information is communicated consistently across transitions of care. Medication reconciliation requires a systematic and comprehensive review of all the medications a patient is taking to ensure that medications being added, changed or discontinued are carefully evaluated.

This is an amazing example of patients and providers working together – a patient’s medication list helps providers conduct medication reconciliation using the most up-to-date information, which, in turn, helps keep patients safe as they move through the system. Not only does this practice keep patients safe, medication reconciliation benefits the healthcare system by helping to reduce costly and unnecessary re-hospitalization, freeing up beds and other vital resources.

According to a 2011 study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, the total cost of preventable, drug-related hospitalizations in Canada is about $2.6 billion per year. Research also states that 20 per cent of patients discharged from acute care facilities experience an adverse event, and of those, 66 per cent are drug-related.

There are a number of great resources available to promote the importance of medication safety and ensure that it is never compromised.

For starters, a program called Knowledge is the Best Medicine helps you take control of your health by working with your prescriber and the rest of your healthcare team to manage your medicines safely and appropriately. This program is supported by leading health organizations in Canada who believe that an educated patient is a healthier patient.

Knowledge is the Best Medicine products will enable you and your family to keep an accurate medication list with you at all times, communicate your medication and health related needs at each point-of-contact with the healthcare system, and easily access medication and health related information.

For those with iPhones, there is also an app that can help you manage and keep track of your medications. MyMedRec is a portable up-to-date health record that can be easily shared with your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, family or anyone else involved in your healthcare. It keeps track of the medicines that you and your family members are taking and reminds you when to take a dose and when to refill your prescription. This app is available for free on the iTunes app store.

For healthcare providers, Safer Healthcare Now!, a program of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute,  is an initiative aimed at implementing interventions known to reduce avoidable harm, offering tools and resources to implement medication reconciliation in acute care, long-term care and home care settings.

More than 500 SHN teams (representing 450 different organizations) have shared their expertise, resources, data, experiences, questions and tools to create a learning network. The work of the teams that were successful in implementing medication reconciliation within their organization has been profiled across Canada through national webinars, which are available to support the virtual community.

These efforts are also making a real difference as medication reconciliation becomes a patient safety priority in most jurisdictions and an ever increasing number of organizations implement medication reconciliation. In 2012, the Cross Country MedRec Check-Up Map was developed to profile Canadian medication reconciliation success. The map identifies practice leaders, the use of technology, provincial and national supports, Canadian research and publications related to medication reconciliation.

None of these health promotions would be possible if not for the partnerships that exist between organizations working together to improve medication safety.   Whether you are a patient, a provider or both, we all must continue to advance our practices along side innovation, technology and new methods as we persistently work towards a safer healthcare system.