Students partner to reduce medication errors

May 7, 2010

(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — The Texas A&M Health Science Center (HSC) and Texas A&M University (TAMU) collaborated this spring semester in a student competition designed to protect patient health and safety. The students tackled medication reconciliation – a process to reduce medication errors and patient harm associated with those errors.

Four interdisciplinary HSC and TAMU teams, including students from the College of Nursing and Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy at the HSC, and Mays Business School and College of Engineering at Texas A&M, competed with each other for an award of up to $500. All participants received course credit.

Based out of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Rural and Community Health Institute (RCHI), team leaders were Kathy Mechler, R.N., M.S., CPHQ, and Robert Morrow, M.D., M.B.A., of the institute; and Sara McComb, Ph.D., and Andy Banerjee, Ph.D., of the Texas A&M Dwight Look College of Engineering.

“We were very excited about this opportunity to improve patient care and promote team learning for students,” Mechler said.

Studies indicate poor communication of medical information at transition points (hospital admissions, transfer and/or discharge) is responsible for up to 50 percent of all medication errors and as much as 20 percent of adverse drug events in the hospital. Tracking and reconciling medications in a hospital utilizes the knowledge of medication flow in hospitals, systems engineering, cost and the documentation challenges in obtaining needed information.

In the student competition, each team was paired with a small hospital to collect data and solicit input from its personnel on effective medication reconciliation. Faculty advisors coached and mentored the teams throughout the process. The initial meetings and hospital visits occurred in late January, with a mid-semester progress review in March.

Each team made a presentation earlier this month at the end of the semester before a panel of judges from various medical professions, including doctors, pharmacists and hospital administrators. The team also prepared a final report for its respective hospital and a poster.

According to Dr. McComb, this competition offers an opportunity for students with expertise in different fields to collaborate on an important issue that initially appears easy but in reality is complex and challenging. The purpose of teams is twofold: to provide a fresh perspective to a problem and to enhance the students’ overall education experiences.

“Many of the students have little or no experience with medication reconciliation, and therefore, they will not be hindered by any perceived institutional difficulties that often impede practicing health care professionals who attempt to address this issue,” Dr. McComb said. “Also, many problems they will face in their professional lives will be difficult to solve and require collaboration across disciplines. Designing a medication reconciliation system by working as a member of an interdisciplinary team is representative of the type of activities they will encounter.”

Funding for the student competition was provided through an HSC grant with the Annenberg Foundation. Other participating faculty were Kathryn Cochran, R.N., and Regina Bentley, Ed.D., R.N., CNE, of the HSC-College of Nursing; Robert Stanberry, Pharm.D., J.D., of the HSC-College of Pharmacy; Justin T. Yates, Ph.D., of the Texas A&M Dwight Look College of Engineering; and Christopher J. Duzich, CPA, CCIM, of the Texas A&M Mays Business School.

— Marketing & Communications