Meds safety unites healthcare sector

Better use of funding, leveraging digital health and empowering consumers and the workforce were among strategies discussed at the first Medicine Safety Forum this week.

More than 100 experts representing the breadth of healthcare, including government and consumers, were challenged to “think differently” on the safe use of medicines as they met in Canberra seeking solutions to this major health challenge.

The forum was convened by the Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF), Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA), the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA), NPS MedicineWise and academic partners Monash University and University of Sydney, after medicine safety and quality use of medicines were declared the 10th National Health Priority Area by federal, state and territory health ministers.

“Medicine safety is a priority for us all and we each have a role to play,” PSA National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman said.

“It was inspiring to see the sector work together today to proactively identify those measures we can cooperatively pursue to make a real difference and protect patients.

“Improving medicine safety is not just about spending more money but also about being more strategic with the money that is spent.”

CHF CEO Leanne Wells said: “Discussions often returned to how vital it is to have patients actively engaged in their healthcare decisions and informed about the medicines they are prescribed.

“Modern medication offers great benefits, but the rate of hospital admissions caused by avoidable medication errors shows the importance of ensuring consumers are informed about their medicines, which is an integral part of broader quality use of medicines.”

SHPA CEO Kristin Michaels said: “The Medicine Safety Forum represents collaborative medicine leadership, which is crucial to ensuring Australians gain the greatest possible benefit from medicine use.

“The successful combination of effective medicine, provided in an accessible manner, with appropriate counselling and care from an expert workforce, will deliver the positive patient outcomes we all seek.”

NPS MedicineWise CEO Steve Morris said: “We need to cherish the ethos of quality use of medicines. While Australia’s national strategy for the quality use of medicines requires an update, the principles of 20 years ago, including the primacy of consumers, are just as relevant today.”

The cost of medicine related harm is significant, estimated to cost Australia more than $1.4 billion each year, with PSA reporting 50 per cent of this harm is preventable.

“Today there was deep discussion of the actions we can take to reduce harm from medicines,” Associate Professor Freeman said. “We will now take the feedback and ideas we received from participants and develop a suite of recommendations, and work with relevant stakeholders to implement as a matter of urgency.

“We’d like to thank the more than 100 experts who joined us today and thought outside the box to address one of Australia’s greatest healthcare challenges.

“The depth and number of participants at today’s forum shows how important this issue is and how committed the healthcare sector is to improving medicine safety.”

A report on the outcomes of the Medicine Safety Forum, including recommendations will now be developed.

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