Create a no-blame culture and adopt an online system to improve medication error reporting.
Reasons for Underreporting of Medication Errors
Medication error (ME) is a key patient safety concern and a leading cause of avoidable patient harm in healthcare systems. However, MEs often go undetected or underreported. Reporting MEs is crucial for patient safety and continuous quality improvement in all healthcare organizations. There are several challenges associated with the underreporting of actual MEs or near misses. Organizational barriers that lead to underreporting of MEs are inadequate reporting systems, a culture of blaming individuals instead of the systems, and unclear definition of MEs. Individual barriers are fear of reprimand and punishment, lack of awareness and inadequate training. Underreporting of MEs remains a challenge for healthcare organizations.
In this blog, we take a closer look at the challenges of paper-based reporting systems, which is one of the key obstacles in ME reporting. To address these challenges, we make a case for online ME reporting systems for quick and easy reporting, data gathering, review and root cause analysis of MEs.
Common Challenges in Manual Reporting
Listed below are five key challenges in reporting MEs using a manual system:
- Burdensome paperwork.
Using manual systems to report MEs involves extensive paperwork, requiring users to fill out different forms or sections or different ME type details. The process of sorting and filling out different forms is cumbersome as healthcare providers often work in fast-paced and high-stress environments. The time-consuming and inefficient documentation process is a main reason for underreporting, as healthcare workers perceive it as an additional burden on their workload.
- Incomplete and poor data quality.
Manual systems are prone to data entry errors, illegible handwriting, incomplete data, and inconsistencies in reporting formats. Poor data quality and unstructured data hinder efforts in analyzing data to identify trends or root causes of MEs.
- Delayed in reporting and lack of real-time alert.
The Manual reporting process often causes a delay in reporting MEs and in sending out alerts. Hospital management may come to know about a severe incident much later. For adverse medication events, delay in responses could have grave consequences. Real-time alerts will allow key stakeholders to respond promptly.
- Lack of feedback and communication.
This is a major disincentive for people to report incidents. Having a feedback and communication mechanism that keeps reporting persons in the loop is essential to encourage ME reporting and facilitate learning from the incidents and errors.
- Difficulties in data retrieval and analysis.
Managing and storing paper records can be cumbersome, which also raises concern about the confidentiality of reported incidents. It takes additional time and effort to retrieve, compile and analyse data. This can hinder the Quality team’s ability to conduct timely analysis and recommend improvement actions.
Benefits of Online ME Reporting System
Well-designed online ME reporting systems can address the shortcomings of manual systems described above. Implementing an online reporting system can be part of a broader strategy to foster a culture of safety, continuous improvement, and transparency within your organization.
- Efficient reporting process.
Online reporting systems streamline the reporting process, making it easier and more convenient for nurses, pharmacists, and doctors to report MEs. Their roles in reporting MEs are pivotal because they are directly involved in prescribing, preparing, and administering medications. As such, it is vital to ensure an enabling environment in reporting MEs. Online systems reduce paperwork and administrative burdens associated with manual reporting methods. Workflow and email automation further enhances efficiency in managing ME incidents.
- Consistent and complete incident data.
Online reporting systems often provide structured and guided data entry forms to ensure that users record all required data. Enforcing standard reporting formats will ensure consistency and completeness in ME documentation.
- Real-time reporting and alert.
A key advantage of online systems is allowing for immediate reporting and notification of incidents. Real-time communication enables the responsible persons to respond to the incidents promptly. For critical MEs and high-risk situations, online systems can trigger and send alerts to hospital management, allowing for swift response and intervention.
- Data confidentiality and security.
Online systems can be designed with robust user access rights and security measures to protect sensitive information, ensuring that only authorized personnel have access to the reported ME data. It also prevents incident reports with sensitive information from being misplaced or lost.
- Data and trend analysis.
Real-time data and trend analysis is possible with online reporting systems. With all data stored in a single system, you can analyse large datasets to identify trends and root causes of MEs. The ability to analyse data trends allows for proactive risk management to prevent future errors.
Addressing these challenges by implementing effective online incident reporting solutions can contribute to a culture of safety, where healthcare workers are more likely to report MEs, leading to improved patient outcomes and overall healthcare quality. As reporting of MEs is usually done on a voluntary basis, it is crucial to encourage all healthcare workers to report MEs so that risk reduction strategies can be formulated to promote safe medication use.