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Aurora medication safety initiative earns national recognition

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Aurora Health Care has received national recognition from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices for a unique initiative focusing on medication safety in the medical clinic.

The Institute selected Aurora's Walworth County Patient Safety Council for a Cheers Award, which honors individuals, organizations and companies that have set a superlative standard of excellence for others to follow in the prevention of medication errors and adverse drug events.

The Walworth County Patient Safety Council represents a new approach to the issue of medication safety. Patients and a safety expert from Midwest Airlines joined with Aurora physicians and pharmacists to implement an effort that improved medication safety for local senior citizens. Also working with Aurora on this effort was Consumers Advancing Patient Safety. This project was supported with a grant from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

"A key element of our commitment to enhance safety is the involvement of the community, which has helped us to approach our initiatives from the patient's perspective," said Kathryn Leonhardt, MD, Aurora's patient safety officer and medical director of care management.

Consisting of 11 patients and 12 health care providers -- all residents of Walworth County -- the Walworth County Patient Safety Council is believed to be the first model that brought patients and providers together to develop strategies for improving medication safety for seniors in their community.

"From the initial design stages to the implementation of the tools, we applied a grassroots, public health approach to build this program as a community effort," Dr. Leonhardt said. "Patients partnered with us to help design and disseminate tools and educate the community to work collaboratively with their physician to ensure the medical record accurately reflected the medications a patient is taking."

The efforts included distribution of medication bags and lists to seniors in the county. There were ongoing presentations on improving communications between patients and their physician and care team. The initial focus was on the 5 Aurora clinics in Walworth County. The effort later was extended to community groups. Through the initiative, the accuracy of medication lists in the doctor's office improved from 69% to 81%.

Work is under way to replicate the process throughout Aurora. The success of the initiative also is being shared with other providers across the country.

"Consumers Advancing Patient Safety believes that the perspective, the wisdom and the will of patients and families in partnership with providers from around the world provides the most powerful contribution to ensuring a truly authentic and sustainable transformation in patient safety," said Susan E. Sheridan, MIM, MBA, CAPS co-founder and president. "We applaud Aurora for recognizing the value of partnering with consumers in this medication safety project."

About the Institute for Safe Medication Practices

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices is a non-profit organization that is well known throughout the nation and around the world as an educational resource for the prevention of medication errors. The Institute represents more than 30 years of experience in helping health care practitioners keep patients safe, and continues to lead efforts to improve the medication use process.

About Consumers Advancing Patient Safety

Consumers Advancing Patient Safety was formed to serve as a collective voice for individuals, families and healers who wish to prevent harm in health care through partnership and collaboration. Its vision is to create a partnership between consumers and health care providers aimed at creating global health care systems that are safe, compassionate and just.

About Aurora Health Care

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a national leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora has care sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

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Contact: Ron Irwin (414-647-3405)

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