Pharmacists for Patient Safety


Pharmacists are a key component in improving patient safety, according to a new report released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. This report, called Making Health Care Safer II, serves as a long-awaited update to the first report on this topic that AHRQ published back in 2001.

After exhaustive review of evidence-based practices that improve patient safety, this report outlines 10 practices that it “strongly encourages” as immediately adopted and another dozen practices that are “encouraged” to be adopted. Of these, four can be implemented by pharmacies.

Pharmacy-related Patient Safety Practices Recommended by AHRQ

  1. Greater involvement of clinical pharmacists to reduce adverse drug events
  2. Use of complementary methods to detect adverse events/medical errors in monitoring patient safety problems
  3. Computerized provider order entry
  4. Medication reconciliation

Best Practices for Medication Reconciliation

Pharmacist-supported medication reconciliation could reduce hospital utilization in the year following discharge, according to one of the studies reviewed in this report, possibly through catching patient discontinuation of important medications, such as anticoagulants, cholesterol-lowering medications, osteoporosis medications, or gastric acid suppressants.

When this report reviewed studies of safety strategies, the best practices for medication reconciliation involved:

  • Methodical medication reconciliation at the time of patient admission
  • Electronically generated discharge prescriptions
  • Pharmacist counseling at discharge
  • Medication changes communicated directly to the patient’s community pharmacy
  • Telephone follow-up by a pharmacist

What do you think

With patient safety in mind, which of the four pharmacist-related practices AHRQ recommends do you think benefits patients the most? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.

Stephen C Vogt, PharmD
President and CEO
BioPlus SP

Making Health Care Safer II: An Updated Critical Analysis of the Evidence for Patient Safety Practices. Rockville (MD). Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality March 2013 (Evidence Reports/Technology Assessments, No. 211.) Available from:

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