Standardizing IV medication practices for patient safety

There are various points in the Arizona health care system at which a patient might receive intravenous solutions and medications. An IV might be administered during emergency transport, in an emergency room, in the surgical environment, or in an intensive care unit. One of the challenges for an individual who receives treatment in more than one of these situations during a health-related situation is that the transfer into a different part of the system often results in the stopping and re-starting of IV therapies. Because different fluid and medication concentrations may be used based on the setting, equipment often requires reprogramming, which leaves room for errors.

Officials with the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists indicate that standardization would provide for greater patient safety, an issue that is being addressed through an initiative called Standardize 4 Safety. This effort was started in May 2016 and has a goal of reducing medication errors related to oral medications and IV solutions.

The initiative will be handled in phases, beginning with standardizing these issues for adults before moving on to focus on pediatric matters. The first two phases will focus on continuous IV infusions, and the third will deal with intermittent administration of analgesic medications through pumps that are controlled by patients. One of the first steps in the initial phase will involve gathering input about the appropriate standard concentrations. ASHP intends to post drafts of its recommendations as the program moves forward.

Medication errors can occur for various reasons and in differing environments ranging from the hospital to the home. In some cases, a patient may take the wrong medication or the wrong amount of the correct medication, which could have adverse consequences. However, medical malpractice may be an issue if a patient takes the wrong medication because of an error on the part of a prescribing physician or a pharmacy technician.