Last week we celebrated Medication Safety Week, an event that was first recognized in 1999 by the Women’s Heart Foundation to bring to light the dangers of improper medication management. Over the last 18 years, we’ve seen progress made in how hospitals track and manage their medication—but room for improvement remains.
Globally, medication errors are costing an estimated $42 billion annually—and cause at least one death every day. According to Dr. Margaret Chan, World Health Organization Director-General, “Apart from the human cost, medication errors place an enormous and unnecessary strain on health budgets. Preventing errors saves money and saves lives.”
The Good and the Bad of Healthcare
In today’s age of click-bait stories, we are bombarded by both the very good and the very bad of healthcare. However, the majority of Americans experience care somewhere in the middle.
While the good should certainly remain, removing preventable risk and error from today’s healthcare system is an ongoing mission. In support of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a global effort to halve medication-related errors in five years.
How WHO is Fighting Back
The new initiative, the Global Patient Safety Challenge on Medication Safety, aims to address weaknesses in today’s health systems that lead to medication errors. Many of these efforts will focus on how medications are prescribed, distributed, and consumed. Specific efforts will also improve patient awareness about risks associated with improper use of medication.
As part of the Challenge, countries are called on to take early action to access key risk factors and develop best practices in a number of areas, including:
- Medications with a high risk of harm if used improperly
- Patients who take multiple medications for different diseases and conditions
- Patients going through transitions of care
By focusing on these areas, the WHO hopes healthcare systems will be able to reduce medication errors and preventable harm to patients. By taking on this area globally, it’s clear medication safety is top of mind for all levels of care providers, patient safety advocates, and public health advocacy organizations.