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World Patient Safety Day: Medication Without Harm

World Patient Safety Day 2022 focuses on a campaign to strengthen safe medication practices to prevent errors and reduce medication-related harm.

Unsafe medication practices and medication errors are leading causes of avoidable harm in health care across the world. Globally, the cost associated with medication errors has been estimated at $42 billion USD annually.

It is projected that 5% of all patients who are admitted to a hospital experience a medication error, and that an average hospital will have one medication error every 23 hours or every 20 admissions. Medication errors result in severe patient harm, disability and even death.

With a focus on preventable medication errors, World Patient Safety Day 2002 seeks to engage with governments and professional bodies to develop practices and policies that will reduce severe avoidable medication-related harm by 50%, globally in the next 5 years.

Errors can occur at different stages of the medication use process. Medication errors occur when weak medication systems and/or human factors such as fatigue, poor environmental conditions or staff shortages affect prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, administration and monitoring practices.

Medication safety is at the forefront for anaesthesia professionals who often have to work in complex and distracting environments, with drugs that have the potential for both harm and abuse.

Research in the US found that 5.3% of medication administrations during anaesthesia involved an error, an adverse medication event, or both, and 79% were considered preventable (Merry & Wahr 2021).

Medication without Harm

The WHO Global Patient Safety Challenge: Medication Without Harm campaign calls on stakeholders (patients, clinicians and decision-makers) to prioritize and take early action in key areas associated with significant patient harm due to unsafe medication practices.

These include high-risk situations, transitions of care, polypharmacy (concurrent use of multiple medications) and look-alike, sound-alike medications.

Global Patient Safety Challenge Strategic Framework

The Global Patient Safety Challenge has developed a strategic framework that identifies the four domains of the Challenge: patients and the public, health care professionals, medicines and systems and practices of medication.

The framework describes each domain through four subdomains. The three key action areas –namely polypharmacy, high-risk situations and transitions of care – impact each domain. 

Objectives of World Patient Safety Day 2022:

RAISE global awareness of the high burden of medication-related harm due to medication errors and unsafe practices, and ADVOCATE urgent action to improve medication safety.

ENGAGE key stakeholders and partners in the efforts to prevent medication errors and reduce medication-related harm.

EMPOWER patients and families to be actively involved in the safe use of medication.

SCALE UP implementation of the WHO Global Patient Safety Challenge: Medication Without Harm

Medication Safety Resources and Research

Medication Safety During Anesthesia and the Perioperative (2021).  Merry & Wahr

Global Patient Safety Challenge: Medication Without Harm brochure (2017) WHO

Patient Safety Curriculum Guide: Section 11 – Medication Safety (2011) WHO

Medicines safety in anaesthetic practice (2019) Mackay, Jennings & Webber. BJA Education 19(5)

Medication safety in the operating room: literature and expert-based recommendations (2017) Wahr, J. A., et al. BJA 118(1)

Medication handling: towards a practical, human-centred approach Marshall & Chrimes (2018) Anaesthesia

Medication Administration in Anesthesia (2007) Stabile et al .

The economics of medication safety: Improving medication safety through collective, real-time learning. (2022) OECD Health Working Paper N° 147.

World Patient Safety Day with Dr Jannicke Mellin-Olsen (2022) ASA’s Central Line podcast episode 76