Saskatchewan gets a dose of new drug info system

A new health information initiative hopes to make drug prescriptions safer, while stifling drug interactions and duplications, including prescription drug abuse, according to Saskatchewan Health.

The Pharmaceutical Information Program (PIP) will help health care professionals sort through numerous medications a person may be taking during treatment, or where several people and prescriptions are involved in a patient’s care, the agency said.

“At the point of service all you need is a PC with a Web browser,” said Neil Gardner, executive director, Health Information Solutions Centre at Saskatchewan Health. “But this is just the first phase of a mutli-phase implementation.”

The next phase will allow physicians with access to drug profile to electronically prescribe drugs and medications, while also flagging interactions and offering dosing advice, he said Prior to PIP, there was no centralized, complete source of prescription records health care providers could refer to when making decisions about a patient’s drug therapy, according to Saskatchewan Health.

“From a physician’s point of view, he or she, would be aware of what prescriptions they had prescribed, but if the person went to another medical clinic, specialist or emergency – and received another prescription – they wouldn’t necessarily be aware of that,” Gardner said.

In mid-October, PIP will be introduced to emergency rooms in Regina and Saskatoon and a limited number of pharmacies, physicians’ offices, home-care sites and long-term care facilities throughout the province, the agency said.

“In an emergency ward, often, (health care professionals) have to rely on the patient’s recollection,” said Gardner. “That is difficult because the patient may be ill, drug names are hard to remember, and may involve seniors on a number of medications.”

And a patient’s recollection might not be totally accurate.

Gardner said when health care professionals prescribe drug (or order a drug in emergency) it is very important to know other medications the patient may be taking because drugs are becoming very complex.

“The risk of a drug interaction is increasing,” Gardner said. “In an emergency situation, when you need to treat the person quickly, and could prescribe a drug that interacts with (one or more of the) drugs they are already on …well, you want to avoid that.”

Saskatchewan Association of Registered Nurses executive director Donna Brunskill called the program a significant safety initiative for Saskatchewan residents.

“As the professional regulatory body for the provinces 9,000 registered nurses,” she said, “we are committed to working together on initiatives that improve quality health care in Saskatchewan.”

Non-profit Canada Health Infoway will contribute approximately $5 million of the $7 million invested in the project.

Saskatchewan’s experience with the project will help advance the drug information system initiatives Infoway has planned or that are already underway in other provinces, Infoway stated.

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