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Cleansed data enables safer, more efficient care

As any healthcare provider knows, medical databases are dirty, dirty places: Not filled with grime or muck, of course, but with duplicate records and inaccurate information. This has become an inevitable part of the prescription journey — and in the healthcare system at large — compromising the integrity of patient data and the care pharmacists provide.

Throughout a patient’s healthcare journey, many clinical and non-clinical staff handle patient information, often through various electronic data systems. This data contains sensitive personal health information, including medical condition status, test results, prescription history, as well as general demographic information. Due to interoperability challenges, the data often cannot be shared digitally in its entirety, or it isn’t shareable in the right format. If a patient’s name isn’t immediately found in the system, the user will create a new record, which leads to duplicate records. Human error can even lead to a treatment recommendation for the wrong patient with a similar name and/or birthdate.

Point of care risks

At the point of care in pharmacy, we feel the impact of all these scenarios and so do our patients. Incomplete or inaccurate data means that the wrong patient could be prescribed the wrong medication with possible life-threatening consequences. Furthermore, if multiple records exist for the same patient, each record is most likely only a small snapshot of a patient’s health status, not an accurate picture of the overall condition.

After receiving a prescription, it’s not uncommon for a busy pharmacy to process it quickly, entering in just the essential information needed to provide the medication. If the prescription was being transferred from another pharmacy, the information provided about medical conditions, over-the-counter medication history, and other elements vital to the patient record may be incomplete and prevent the appropriate interaction checks and alerts from taking place. With nearly four billion prescriptions filled each year, seven errors happen each month, on average, at every U.S. pharmacy with potentially life-altering, even fatal consequences.1
If the records were complete and consolidated, there is a much better chance a pharmacist would note or be alerted to the cases where medication interactions put patients at risk.

Striving for efficiency

The pharmacists and technicians behind the pharmacy counter are constantly being asked to do more in the same amount of time. Every step that requires manual entry and data checking on their part is an opportunity for a misstep or patient misidentification. Most pharmacists do everything they can to ensure the right patients are receiving the right medications and are safe. Unfortunately, accidents do happen; and pharmacies need to do whatever they can set up their employees for success.

Technology that can aggregate and cleanse the data can take much of the manual work off the pharmacy teams. Unburdening them from this administrative responsibility frees them to provide more and better patient care. Pharmacy is certainly a high-touch environment, as patients need time and attention to understand what medications they are being prescribed, why the treatment is recommended, and how they can be adherent. These days, pharmacists are stretched thin and don’t have the time or resources they’d like to have to spend fulfilling this critical, interactive role. Technology should allow pharmacists to maximize their value by returning to the industry’s relationship-based roots.

Trends worth tackling

By implementing referential database technology to clean up the data, pharmacies can proactively streamline the patient identification process for a safer, more efficient provision of care. By assigning every patient a unique identifier, pharmacists can deliver prescriptions with a confidence of clear, clean and concise data. In turn, the correct prescriptions for the correct patients result in safer, better care.

As trends toward value-based care and healthcare consolidation continue to grow, so does the need to secure accurate patient records across the entire healthcare enterprise. As increased scrutiny in pharmacy demands clean, consolidated data, the sheer volume of records is increasing exponentially. Every new or duplicate patient record is an opportunity—for error or for uncertainty. The choice is yours.

Bobbie Rilley is the director of pharmacy for LexisNexis Risk Solutions Health Care
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