California Hospitals Committed to Reducing Medication-related Errors

California HealthCare Foundation releases analysis of patient safety legislation, SB 1875

An estimated 10,000 people die each year in California hospitals from preventable medical errors and 140,000 people are injured as a result of medical treatment. Passed in 2000, SB 1875, known as the Minimization of Medication-Related Errors, or the Medication Safety Bill, requires hospitals to create medication error reduction plans. An analysis funded by California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) of hospital’s compliance with SB 1875 reveals a high level of commitment to reduce medication errors through technology solutions — often exceeding the minimum requirements of the law.

Commissioned by CHCF, Convergence Health Consulting (CHC) analyzed 344 hospitals’ medication safety plans, representing 84 percent of plans submitted to the Department of Health Services. The resulting report, Legislating Medication Safety: The California Experience, explores the specific strategies California hospitals plan to use to address medication safety issues. It discusses potential concerns about implementing the plans, particularly the need to actively engage physicians in computerized order entry. It also discusses policy implications of the patient safety issue and describes failed previous attempts to grapple with the problem.

According to Jennifer Eames, CHCF program officer, “Efforts to improve patient safety have gained momentum in California. One hundred and fifty hospitals, or 46%, plan to complete implementation of a CPOE system by 2005.”

Results from analyzing the plans include:

  • Technology solutions were broadly embraced by hospitals. Forty-five percent plan to implement two technology solutions; 32% plan to use three or more solutions.
  • Many hospitals chose multiple non-technology methods to reduce medication errors that often correlated with JCAHO or other standards and practices.
  • The most aggressive plans chose strategies from every aspect of the medication delivery process.
  • More work can be done to evaluate and measure the impact of various medication error reduction strategies.

Lead report author, Bruce Spurlock, M.D., notes, “It’s encouraging to see so many California hospitals actively engaged in improving patient safety. Hospitals rose to the occasion when they developed their plans, now they must effectively implement them and demonstrate they are making significant gains.”

A related report, cosponsored by California HealthCare Foundation and First Consulting Group, Computerized Physician Order Entry: Lessons from the Field, reviews approaches taken in ten different community hospitals, as well as the observations of CPOE implementation specialists from five CPOE software vendors that have assisted multiple hospitals.

Contact Information:
Eric Antebi
Director of Communications

About the California Health Care Foundation

The California Health Care Foundation is dedicated to advancing meaningful, measurable improvements in the way the health care delivery system provides care to the people of California, particularly those with low incomes and those whose needs are not well served by the status quo. We work to ensure that people have access to the care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford.