Edith Nutescu, a clinical pharmacy professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who led the panel of experts who developed the guidelines, said blood thinners are the preferred treatment option to prevent heart attacks, blood clots and stroke, but they are not without risk. These high-risk drugs account for nearly 7 percent of medication errors in hospitalized patients, Nutescu said.
The guidelines, endorsed by the board of directors of the Anti-coagulation Forum, a group dedicated to optimizing anti-coagulation care, include:
-- Standardized dosing protocols should be available on each hospital floor or be accessible through the hospital's electronic medical record. Computerized physician order entry, bar code scanning, programmable infusion pumps and examining a patient's range of dosage all reduce medication errors. In the absence of technology-based systems, having a pharmacist on patient rounds has been shown to reduce errors by up to 78 percent.
-- A multidisciplinary team comprised of physicians, nurses and pharmacists should care for each patient.
-- A reliable means of identifying and tracking patients receiving therapy.
-- Evidence-based standards of practice should be used to ensure the appropriate management of all drug therapies.
-- Staff training, ongoing educational development and documented competency assessment.
-- Patient education.
-- Procedures designed for patients' safe transition from inpatient to outpatient, or to other settings.
-- Continuous quality improvement is essential to improving patient safety and optimizing outcomes while reducing costs.
The eight procedures were published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy.