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Can patient safety be improved by reducing the volume of “inappropriate prescribing tasks” handed over to out-of-hours junior doctors?

Authors Amis SM, Osicki THE

Received 4 October 2017

Accepted for publication 3 January 2018

Published 20 March 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 105—112


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Samuel Martin Amis, Tobin Henry Edgar Osicki

Department of Acute Internal Medicine, South Warwickshire Foundation Trust, Warwick, UK

Background: First-year doctors found that during out-of-hours shifts they were being delayed and distracted from reviewing potentially sick/deteriorating patients by a high volume of prescribing tasks. This predominately consisted of oral anticoagulation prescribing and rewrites of drug charts. We hoped that if we could reduce this burden of “inappropriate prescribing tasks”, we could not only improve junior doctors’ job satisfaction and opportunities for training but also give them more time for patient reviews.
Methods: Three weekends were initially audited to quantify the number of “inappropriate prescribing tasks” using data from the hospital’s computerized task assigning system. On three subsequent weekends, a checklist was handed out to the ward teams on Friday mornings. This checklist was designed to encourage the day teams to check that drug charts would not need oral anticoagulation or rewriting over the weekend.
Results: An overall reduction in “inappropriate prescribing tasks” of 46% with a specific reduction in inappropriate oral anticoagulation prescribing of 65% was observed. Inappropriate drug chart rewrites were reduced by 30%. The reduction in the mean number of pre-intervention inappropriate prescribing tasks (as a percentage of total prescribing tasks) and the post-intervention mean was 6.94% (95% confidence interval −0.54 to 14.42, p-value=0.062).
Conclusion: Improved job satisfaction and a perceived reduced workload were noted from post-intervention qualitative surveys. While improved patient safety directly resulting from this intervention is more difficult to establish, and the observed reduction in inappropriate prescribing was only approaching statistical significance, our colleagues commented in post-intervention feedback that they felt they had more time, and felt less pressured, while attending patients. The workload of junior doctors can exert a significant effect on patient care, and simple measures can alleviate this burden. Furthermore, computerized hospital task management systems are an underutilized source of data for audit and quality improvement.

Keywords: checklist, on-call, anticoagulation, drug-chart, workload

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