Medication problems drop by one-third in hospital cluster

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 September, 2007, 12:00am

Seven public hospitals in New Territories East achieved a one-third decrease in problems with drug administration - such as distributing the wrong medicine or failing to give patients medicine on time - after introducing standardised checks last year.

But Fung Hong, the hospital cluster's chief executive, admitted yesterday it was difficult to eliminate all such incidents and it would take some time to computerise drug administration in the wards.

The cluster implemented revised procedures in April last year. Before that, a survey of the hospitals found that frontline nurses had various interpretations of the checking procedures, creating confusion.

In the first year of the adoption of the standardised procedures, 71 drug-administration incidents were reported, 35 cases fewer than the 106 cases reported in the one year before the change.

'We are quite happy with the drop. A similar scheme will be rolled out in other clusters next year,' Dr Fung said. 'But it is difficult to rule out all possibility of incidents.'

He said as drug administration in wards was not yet computerised, doctors still hand-wrote prescriptions, which could sometimes be misread. Also, nurses might sometimes repeat or miss giving medicine to patients during shift changeovers.

'Mobile computing for drug administration in wards is not an easy thing because we have to ensure we have a good security system to protect the patients' personal data,' Dr Fung said.

'It will take some time for the [Hospital] Authority to study its feasibility.'

Dr Fung said none of the patients among the 71 cases were seriously affected.

The cases, counted until March, did not include a leukaemia patient who died in July after a chemotherapy drug was wrongly injected into her spine instead of a vein at Prince of Wales Hospital, one of the facilities in the cluster.

Dr Fung said the authority was still investigating the incident and refused to comment further.

He said additionally, all hospitals in the cluster would spend about HK$2 million on a new barcode scanning system by the end of this year to improve patient identification procedures for blood transfusions.

A pilot scheme was started in April in Prince of Wales Hospital.