Survey Finds Strong Support for Technologies to Improve Patient Safety

VALLEY FORGE, Penn. -- Twenty-three percent of

Americans -- or nearly one in four -- say they or a family member have

received the wrong medication at some point from a healthcare professional,

according to the latest AmerisourceBergen Index released today.

The quarterly telephone survey was conducted January 23-26, 2003 by

Opinion Research Corporation on behalf of AmerisourceBergen, the largest

pharmaceutical services company in the United States dedicated solely to the

pharmaceutical supply channel. The margin of error is plus or minus three


The survey of 1,033 adults nationwide explored a variety of issues related

to patient safety, including the best ways to prevent medication errors,

safety hazards in hospitals, and the priority hospitals place on patient


Reducing medication errors was a key topic addressed by the

AmerisourceBergen Index. One way to reduce these errors is through barcode

scanning systems, which scan medications and patient identification bracelets

at hospital bedsides to verify patients are receiving the correct medications.

Seventy-five percent of respondents said they favored the use of barcode

technologies as a way to reduce medication errors. This technology garnered

even more support from 18-34-year-olds, with 82 percent in this age group

saying the government should require drug manufacturers and companies that

repackage drugs to put barcodes on all prescription medications.

In a related question, barcode scanning of medications came in second out

of a list of five ways to increase medication-dispensing accuracy. Twenty-

four percent of all respondents selected this choice. Interest was even

higher among 45-to-54-year-olds, with 32 percent of these respondents choosing

this option.

First place went to requiring doctors to use computers to issue

prescriptions instead of writing them by hand. This was selected by 32 percent

of all respondents. Greater use of automated technologies to count pills and

check prescriptions before they are dispensed placed third, with 17 percent of

respondents picking this. At the bottom of the list were "more pharmacists"

(11 percent) and "more pharmacy technicians" (8 percent).

However, when respondents were asked whether the government should provide

low-interest loans to pharmacy students to address the current pharmacist

shortage and encourage more people to enter the field, 83 percent of those

surveyed said yes. Only 15 percent said no.

Despite concerns over patient safety, 93 percent of respondents said they

believed hospitals placed a priority on reducing medication errors and medical

mistakes, although they expressed this opinion to varying degrees. Thirty-

three percent said they thought hospitals viewed this as "a top priority,"

while 41 percent said it was important, but not a top priority. Eighteen

percent said hospitals considered this "somewhat important." However, only

five percent said hospitals did not consider it important to reduce medical or

medication errors.

With regard to other solutions for ensuring greater patient safety, 80

percent of respondents said they thought the healthcare industry would benefit

from the adoption of uniform safety protocols prior to administering

medication or performing a medical procedure, such as a checklist or other

measures. When asked why they thought uniform safety procedures had not yet

been adopted, 47 percent cited cost. Twenty-one percent said it was

disagreement over how to accomplish this goal, while 15 percent attributed it

to a resistance to change. Only 10 percent selected physician independence as

the reason.

The current nursing shortage was perceived to be the most serious safety

hazard facing hospital patients today, according to 32 percent of those

surveyed. This was followed by residents and interns who work long hours

without sleep (27 percent), the risk of getting an infection while

hospitalized (22 percent), and the risk of a medical mistake or medication

error (15 percent).

AmerisourceBergen is a leading distributor of pharmaceutical products and services

to the hospital systems/acute care market, physician's offices, alternate care

and mail order facilities, independent community pharmacies, and regional

chain pharmacies.

Source: AmerisourceBergen