Best Practices: An Electronic Drug Alert Program to Improve Safety in an Accountable Care Environment

AUTHORS: Sara Griesbach, Adam Lustig, Luanne Malsin, Blake Carley, Kimberly D. Westrich, Robert W. Dubois

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SUMMARY:

BACKGROUND: The accountable care organization (ACO), one of the most promising and talked about new models of care, focuses on improving communication and care transitions by tying potential shared savings to specific clinical and financial benchmarks. An important factor in meeting these benchmarks is an ACO’s ability to manage medications in an environment where medical and pharmacy care has been integrated. The program described in this article highlights the critical components of Marshfield Clinic’s Drug Safety Alert Program (DSAP), which focuses on prioritizing and communicating safety issues related to medications with the goal of reducing potential adverse drug events.

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION: Once the medication safety concern is identified, it is reviewed to evaluate whether an alert warrants sending prescribers a communication that identifies individual patients or a general communication to all physicians describing the safety concern. Instead of basing its decisions regarding clinician notification about drug alerts on subjective criteria, the Marshfield Clinic’s DSAP uses an internally developed scoring system. The scoring system includes criteria developed from previous drug alerts, such as level of evidence, size of population affected, severity of adverse event identified or targeted, litigation risk, available alternatives, and potential for duration of medication use. Each of the 6 criteria is assigned a weight and is scored based upon the content and severity of the alert received. 

OBSERVATIONS:In its first 12 months, the program targeted 6 medication safety concerns involving the following medications: topiramate, glyburide, simvastatin, citalopram, pioglitazone, and lovastatin. Baseline and follow-up prescribing data were gathered on the targeted medications. Follow-up review of prescribing data demonstrated that the DSAP provided quality up-to-date safety information that led to changes in drug therapy and to decreases in potential adverse drug events. In aggregate, nearly 10,000 total potential adverse drug events were identified with baseline data from the DSAP initiatives, and nearly 8,000 were resolved by changes in prescribing. 

IMPLICATIONS: Implications and additional thoughts from The Working Group on Optimizing Medication Therapy in Value-Based Healthcare were provided for the following categories: leveraging electronic health records, importance of data collection and reassessment, preventing alert fatigue utilizing various techniques, relevance to ACO quality measurement, and limitations of a retrospective system.

RECOMMENDATIONS: While health information technologies have been recognized as a cornerstone for an ACO’s success, additional research is needed on comparing these types of technological innovations. Future research should focus on reviewing comparable scoring criteria and alert systems utilized in a variety of ACOs. In addition, an examination of different data mining procedures used within different electronic health record platforms would prove useful to ACOs looking to improve the care of not only the subpopulations with specific metrics associated with them, but their patient population as a whole. The authors also highlight the need for additional research on health information exchanges, including the cost and resource requirements needed to successfully participate in these types of networks.

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