Irish company Pharmapod is taking a lead role in significantly reducing medication and medical errors worldwide.
Over several years of working at a high level in the pharmacy sector, both in Ireland and across Europe, Leonora O’Brien, Pharmapod’s CEO, became aware of what she refers to as “a silent epidemic”.
“I saw that there were a lot of medication errors happening – no organisation is immune to errors – but there was no platform through which the professions could share their experiences and learn from the mistakes, so the same mistakes were being repeated, at a huge human and financial cost,” says O’Brien.
The issue, which impacts millions of lives daily, prompted Leonora to leave her job and set up Pharmapod to develop a Global Learning Health System as a platform for reducing medication errors. The result, launched in 2012, is a cloud-based software-as-a-service system incorporating artificial intelligence tools for the management of patient safety incidents and continuous quality improvement.
Pharmapod’s unique approach
Pharmapod enables pharmacies and healthcare professionals to record, review and analyse patient safety incidents quickly and securely. It’s the first international platform of its kind to pool and share patient safety data across borders, monitoring trends and the causes of medication errors, empowering healthcare professionals locally to improve their practice.
“Our approach is unique in a number of ways. Firstly, we think without borders, so we’re giving healthcare professionals an international forum to share data, learn from it and develop proactive actions to prevent errors from happening. In addition, we can feed back information about risks in real time to professionals to help them learn quickly and efficiently. Our alert system is designed to send highly specific and relevant analysis to pharmacists, so they don’t have to spend time wading through masses of information to find the learning they need to make improvements,” explains O’Brien.
“Our powerful Datawarehouse can generate reports in real-time. These reports can be run by a local organisation or by stakeholders on a provincial, or national level. For example, in Canada, we have a local Response Team in place, a team of pharmacy professionals and patient safety domain experts who review the reports and identify any trends or significant risks. They also develop recommendations for the pharmacies to help prevent these errors recurring. Teams on the front line can learn reactively from what has happened in their local practice, or local group, but we can also feed through learning from other healthcare environments and, indeed, other countries.”
The learning can also be shared with schools of medicine and pharmacy, ensuring that new pharmacists and healthcare professionals are armed with the information they need to help them avoid making medication errors.
The award-winning solution, created by a team of pharmacists and technology experts, is now in widespread use in the UK, Ireland and Canada across healthcare environments including community pharmacy, long-term care and hospitals. Recently, the company celebrated a milestone event when it signed a partnership with the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), recognised as the leader of pharmacy at a global level, and representing over four million pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists around the world.
“In response to the World Health Organization’s Patient Safety Challenge to reduce medication errors by 50% over the next 5 years, FIP and its member organisations are taking a lead role in developing and adopting effective solutions to improve processes across the healthcare system and prevent patient harm,” explains O’Brien.
“What is needed is a robust infrastructure that can provide the data to achieve that goal and Pharmapod can provide it. Without data, we cannot measure the improvements made – with the Pharmapod platform the FIP are working towards measurable tangible outcomes. By harnessing technology, we can strengthen communications across the pharmacy profession, helping pharmacists to share their expertise and accelerate improvements in practice.
“At the FIP, the World is split into six geographical regions, in keeping with the World Health Organisation categorisation. We are identifying which regions and countries are ready to implement a solution and engaging with stakeholders on a national level. The Pharmapod solution is then rolled out on a country to country basis. It’s a very exciting time for both the Pharmapod and FIP teams.”
Accelerating international learning
National level engagement is a significant dimension of Pharmapod’s approach to reducing medication errors. As well as providing its sophisticated software, the company aims to set up Response Teams in every market. The first team has been set up in Canada, where over 4,500 pharmacies are involved in the country’s largest medication safety programme, using Pharmapod’s platform.
“We are taking data collection to the next level by looking at how we can respond to findings. The Response Teams are developing recommendations that can be shared with pharmacies locally and internationally, accelerating the learning from country to country,” says O’Brien.
Pharmapod has succeeded in creating a hugely positive network of healthcare professionals united in shared goals – the safety of patients, driving efficiencies and real peer-to-peer sharing of experience and learnings.
“All along the patient journey there can be risks. Although Pharmapod is best known for addressing medication errors, our system is a full Quality Management System, so it can also deal with medical errors in a hospital environment, safety risks such as slips, trips and falls, as well as providing a full documentation management system for quality procedures, internal and external reporting and inspection processes,” says O’Brien.
“Organisations are identifying weaknesses in their systems and can run reports at the click of a button to demonstrate the improvements that have been made. It drives efficiencies, delivers a healthy return on investment and drives a culture of patient safety across the organisation”.