SOURCE: McKesson

March 03, 2006 10:51 ET

McKesson Spotlights National Patient Safety Awareness Week

As Nation Calls for Adoption of Technology to Make Healthcare Safer, Company Profiles Hospitals Meeting and Exceeding the Challenge

ATLANTA, GA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- March 3, 2006 -- "Doctors practice 21st century medicine, they still have 19th century filing systems," said President George W. Bush. His recent comments reflect the nation's call for a more modern healthcare infrastructure -- one that uses technology to create industry-wide efficiencies and prevent errors. According to McKesson, the world's largest healthcare services company, the information technology (IT) tools are available today to create a safe, automated healthcare environment. The company has joined forces with the National Patient Safety Foundation to raise awareness of the benefits of technology and process re-engineering during Patient Safety Awareness Week, March 5-11, 2006.

"The typical process for administering medications in a hospital provides great opportunity for missed handoffs and errors," said Billie Waldo, M.S., R.N., B.C., McKesson's vice president and general manager of nursing and medication safety solutions. "On average 30 people touch a medication before it is administered. Imagine the complexity for a nurse who typically administers 10 medications per patient per day, or the safety risks for a transplant patient who might receive 36 medications in a single shift. As healthcare leaders, we must address the technology aspects of safety while promoting a culture of safety and addressing the process aspects of safe, high-quality care."

Adverse drug events (ADEs) cause more than 770,000 injuries each year in the United States and cost up to $5.6 million per hospital, according to the Agency for Health and Research and Quality. Yet according to the American Hospital Association, only 23% of U.S. hospitals have adopted bar-code scanning technology -- simple technology found in most retail outlets that has proven to be effective in preventing medication and transfusion errors that lead to ADEs. In a sampling of nearly 115 hospitals where McKesson's bar-code medication administration solutions are in place, clinicians scan bar-codes on more than 129 million medications each year -- resulting in more than 1 million weekly warnings that help to prevent 350,000 potential errors.

In response to this industry issue, McKesson offers a medication administration system that features bar-code technology to support the hospital care team and protect the patient by verifying the "five rights" of medication administration: right patient, right drug, right dose, right route and right time. McKesson's comprehensive suite of solutions integrates software, automation, packaging, distribution and consulting solutions to help providers reduce medication errors at every step where they can occur -- prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, administering and monitoring. The bar-code technology used in McKesson's solution suite, called the McKesson Medication Safety Advantage(SM), has been shown to reduce medication administration errors by as much as 87%. The following are a few examples of healthcare organizations that are ahead of the curve in improving patient safety through technology:

John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, Calif., a part of John Muir Health, has been a leader in using bar code technology to prevent adverse drug events since 1996. Today, the 321-bed acute care hospital bar-codes 99% of all unit-dose medications, and has achieved 99% nursing compliance with bar-code procedures. Medication-error and near-miss reporting increased by 39% between 2001 and 2004, while the percentage of those errors causing patient harm (MERP categories E-I) has decreased by 33 percent. In addition, the percentage of errors causing harm has remained below national averages since 2003. "We saw the benefits of technology for patient safety long ago, and technologically, we are proud to say that our patients are among the safest in the nation," said J. Kendall Anderson, John Muir Health President and CEO. "McKesson technology has allowed us to align our clinical processes so that patients receive the highest quality healthcare possible. Medication safety has helped ensure patient safety."

Methodist Medical Center in Peoria, Ill., has been at the forefront in implementing electronic systems to reduce medical errors and improve physician access to patient records and test results. The 353-bed facility has not only reduced medication errors by 50% using bar-code scanning at the bedside, but it uses technology to provide network physicians anytime, anywhere access to information on 18,000 inpatients and more than 300,000 outpatients each year. When a medication is scanned at a patient's bedside, it is verified against the physician order and screened for allergies, interactions and therapeutic duplication by pharmacists using the pharmacy system. Two of Methodist's 15 nursing units have achieved the targeted 90% rate for medication bar code verification. For its efforts, Methodist achieved the National Patient Safety Goals with zero violations. "Methodist is proud to lead the way in patient safety," said Michael Bryant, Methodist president and chief executive officer. "We are committed to delivering outstanding healthcare, period, and patient safety is an important part of that."

Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, Md., set the course for patient safety more than a decade ago, when it first implemented electronic medical records (EMRs), the foundation for creating many levels of seamless information technology to benefit the patient. In 1998, the hospital implemented online patient charting. In 1999, "Rosie" the pharmacy robot was installed. Today Rosie fills 2,600 medication doses daily representing more than one million medications per year. Peninsula Regional also has implemented computerized physician order entry. It allows doctors to obtain a predetermined list of approved medications for the condition they are treating, write their prescriptions electronically through a laptop and send them via wireless technology directly to Peninsula Regional's pharmacy. From there, prescriptions are checked for accuracy, verified against the patient's medical record for potential side effects or allergies and then filled by the Rosie for delivery to the nursing floor. At the bedside, nurses use a handheld wireless device to scan the medication, their own employee ID badge and the patient's armband to verify the "five rights" of medication administration - right patient, right drug, right dose, right route and right time. According to Peninsula Regional's president/chief executive officer Alan Newberry, "The technology we have put in place will support our goal of becoming one of the safest hospitals in America."

"Hospitals are at the heart of healthcare delivery in the United States," said Diane Pinakiewicz, president, National Patient Safety Foundation. "McKesson has been a leader in working with its customers to address the technology, leadership and cultural aspects of safety. It's clear that in organizations where there is a commitment to addressing all aspects of the safety equation, health IT becomes a valuable enabler in reducing human error, saving lives, saving lost time and avoiding millions of dollars in wasted money."

Each year NPSF sponsors Patient Safety Awareness Week to encourage hospitals to actively engage their communities in patient safety activities and in all aspects of their healthcare. The 2006 theme, "Our Patients-Our Partners: One Team, One Goal," emphasizes patient and family-centered care and promotes building partnerships between providers and patients, families, and advocates. The focus this year is on patients and providers finding ways in which to create effective, positive partnerships in mutual pursuit of safe patient care. More information about National Patient Safety Awareness Week may be found at

About McKesson

McKesson Corporation, currently ranked 15th on the FORTUNE 500, is a healthcare services and information technology company dedicated to helping its customers deliver high-quality healthcare by reducing costs, streamlining processes, and improving the quality and safety of patient care. Over the course of its 173-year history, McKesson has grown by providing pharmaceutical and medical-surgical supply management across the spectrum of care; healthcare information technology for hospitals, physicians, homecare, and payors; hospital and retail pharmacy automation; and services for manufacturers and payors designed to improve outcomes for patients. For more information:

Contact Information