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Patient safety

Saskatchewan launches province-wide pharma system

REGINA – A new Saskatchewan Health initiative, the Pharmaceutical Information Program (PIP), will give authorized healthcare professionals access to the medication records of patients.

Canada Health Infoway will contribute approximately $5 million to the $7 million project.

The program will help healthcare professionals select the best medication to avoid drug interactions and duplications of therapy, including prescription drug abuse. PIP will also help health professionals sort through the numerous medications a person may be taking when treating medical conditions, or where several professionals and prescriptions are involved in a patient’s care.

“This program will add to the quality, safety and management of healthcare in the province,” health minister John Nilson (pictured at left) said. “The Pharmaceutical Information Program is an important tool that will enhance the safety of Saskatchewan’s healthcare system.”

Prior to the introduction of PIP, there was no centralized, complete source of prescription records for healthcare providers to refer to when making decisions about a patient’s drug therapy.

In mid-October, PIP will be introduced to emergency rooms in Regina and Saskatoon and a limited number of pharmacies, physicians’ offices, home-care sites and long-term care facilities throughout the province.

Eventually, PIP will be available to all doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, pharmacies, home care sites and long-term care facilities in Saskatchewan. It will be extended in future phases to include information entered directly by physicians and other healthcare providers, such as allergy information, and prescriptions entered electronically by the prescribers.

“Pharmacists will be able to use this information to help patients maximize the benefits of their drug therapies,” Saskatchewan College of Pharmacists president Debbie McCulloch said. “The Pharmaceutical Information Program will also enhance our role as members of the healthcare team.”

“The program will improve patient safety,” College of Physicians and Surgeons registrar Dennis Kendel said. “Having access to enhanced information will help Saskatchewan physicians offer the highest quality of care to their patients.”

Saskatchewan Association of Registered Nurses executive director Donna Brunskill calls the program a significant safety initiative for Saskatchewan residents. “As the professional regulatory body for the provinces 9,000 registered nurses, we are committed to working together on initiatives that improve quality healthcare in Saskatchewan.”

Saskatchewan Health takes great care to protect the personal health information under its control. Safeguards are in place to ensure only health professionals involved in the patient’s care access personal health information through PIP.

While there are many benefits to this program, a “masking” option has been developed, whereby residents can request that their prescriptions be hidden from view. Exceptions to masking may be made in critical health situations, such as in an emergency or to prevent harm to the patient.

Saskatchewan Health developed PIP in response to challenges contained in The Action Plan for Saskatchewan Healthcare. The program has also evolved in response to recommendations made by the coroner’s inquest into the death of Darcy Dean Ironchild. He was a Saskatoon man who died from an overdose of prescription medications. Inquest testimony indicated Ironchild received over 300 prescriptions in the year before his death.

“Saskatchewan is addressing the patient safety challenge – one of the most critical issues in healthcare today,” Canada Health Infoway president and CEO Richard Alvarez said. “It’s one of the first provinces that will have information about all drugs prescribed to all people in the province. This system can save lives and help eliminate the harmful effects of drug interactions.”

Saskatchewan’s experience with the project will help advance the drug information system initiatives Infoway has planned or that are already under way in other provinces.

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