The debate over President Obama’s mission to reform healthcare is dominating news reports, and, of course, we are paying attention. We appreciate any efforts to increase patient safety and reduce medical errors, which reformers have pledged to do. We believe that these steps alone could reduce healthcare costs significantly.
For instance, Safe Patient Project claims that medical errors and hospital infections cost $45 billion each year. Its new report claims that “few hospitals have adopted well-known systems to prevent medication errors, and FDA rarely intervenes. While FDA reviews new drug names for potential confusion, it rarely requires name changes of existing drugs despite high levels of documented confusion among drugs, which can result in dangerous medication errors. Computerized prescribing and dispensing systems have not been widely adopted by hospitals or doctors, despite evidence that they make patients safer. ”
We would like to see greater discussion of errors, their causes, and aggressive steps to prevent them.
Could better packaging and labeling help? We believe so. Unit-of-use packaging that clearly states product name and strength as well as reduces or eliminates the need for repackaging would tackle prime sources of human error. Automated identification of products down to the unit of use would also help, and may spur more hospital adoption.
President Obama will be taking his fight to the people tonight in a press conference. Any chance he’ll mention packaging and labeling and the roles they can play in increasing patient safety and reducing errors? Probably little. But just the mention of increasing safety is enough for me–and it should be enough of a call to action for you.