Monash research into reducing medication errors wins two national awards

Completing medication management plans can decrease rate of medication errors from 61.5% to 15%

Monash Pharmacy PhD student Erica Tong has received prestigious awards from the Australian Medical Association and the Medical Journal Australia for her research paper conducted at Alfred Health on reducing medication errors in hospital discharge summaries.

Ms Tong from the Monash Centre for Medicine Use and Safety (CMUS) has been awarded the 2017 Sir Richard Stawell Memorial Prize which awards a research paper that addresses a medical subject of clinical significance. In May of 2018, Ms Tong also won the MDA National Prize for Excellence from the MJA which honours the authors of the best original clinical research article published in the MJA in each calendar year.

She is lead author on the paper titled ““Reducing medication errors in hospital discharge summaries: a randomised controlled trial”.

The research evaluated whether pharmacists completing the medication management plan in the medical discharge summary decreased the rate of medication errors in these summaries. Ms Tong and her collaborators from Monash University and Alfred Health found that completion of the medical plan was effective, with medication errors occurring at a rate of 15% when the plan was completed by a pharmacist, compared to 61.5% when it was not.

The issue of medication errors has seen increased scrutiny over the past five years. The World Health Organisation listed patient safety as one of its key global challenges for 2018, following data that reveals medication errors are costing the global healthcare system US$42 billion per annum.

Figures also reveal that up to three per cent of hospital admissions within Australia are due to medication errors, costing the government $AU1.2 billion dollars every year.

Ms Tong’s study reveals a disparity in global healthcare systems, demonstrating a lack of process in discharging patients.

“These results suggest that pharmacist input into discharge plans for patients should be widely adopted. However, to be maximally effective, this requires integrating clinical pharmacists into the team structure of all medical units, and this is not currently standard in all Australian hospitals.” said Ms Tong, who also completed her undergraduate and master’s degrees with Monash.

Ms Tong’s two awards demonstrate the clinical significance of her paper and the findings. The use of a randomised clinical trial and recognition by the AMA and the MJA highlight the importance of pharmacist intervention and the implications for reducing the global healthcare burden due to medication errors.

Ms Tong’s supervisors and co-authors from CMUS include Professor Michael Dooley and Associate Professor Kirstie Galbraith. In highlighting just how extraordinary Ms Tong’s achievements were Associate Professor Galbraith identified the Australian Medical Association as one of the country’s leading medical bodies.

“For the AMA to award such a prestigious prize to a lead author who is still completing their PhD is unheard of,” she said.

“To receive two awards as a PhD student from the AMA and the MJA on the same paper is a significant recognition and demonstrates the importance of Ms Tong’s research”.

The winner of the Sir Richard Stawell Memorial Prize is invited to the AMA Annual General Meeting to receive the award and are also asked to make a presentation on their research in front of their medical peers.

Contact: Divya Krishnan

Phone: 0466910111

Email: divya.krishnan@monsh.edu