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Improving safety for patients with allergies: an intervention for improving allergy documentation

Ziver F. Ismail (Department of Medicine, The Whittington Hospital NHS Trust, London, UK)
Tevfik F. Ismail (Watford General Hospital, Watford, UK)
Alan J. Wilson (Department of Surgery, The Whittington Hospital NHS Trust, London, UK)

Clinical Governance: An International Journal

ISSN: 1477-7274

Article publication date: 25 April 2008

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to audit the use of three strategies for protecting hospital inpatients with allergies: red allergy wristbands for patients with allergies; white identification wristbands for all patients; and completion of an “allergy box” on drug charts. The paper also aims to assess the impact of making pharmacists responsible for ensuring allergy box completion.

Design/methodology/approach

The setting was The Whittington Hospital, London, a district general hospital. Two cross‐sectional studies were conducted 11 months apart, before and after pharmacists were made responsible for ensuring allergy box completion. The studies involved 186 (pre‐intervention) and 250 (post‐intervention) unselected adult patients.

Findings

The proportion of blank allergy boxes decreased significantly from 24.7 per cent to 5.2 per cent (p<0.001) when pharmacists were made responsible for ensuring allergy box completion. The most common reason for blank allergy boxes in both studies was that doctors sought and documented allergies in the notes but then forgot to complete the allergy box. Although the proportion of patients lacking allergy wristbands was less in the second study compared with the first (30.4 v. 44.8 per cent, respectively), the difference was not significant (p=0.206). Similarly, the second study showed a non‐significant decrease in the proportion of patients lacking identification wristbands from 12.9 per cent to 10.8 per cent (p=0.499).

Practical implications

A formal checking system is required for allergy and identification wristbands to improve use of these basic, inexpensive measures for preventing drug errors.

Originality/value

The paper shows that making pharmacists responsible for ensuring allergy status documentation on drug charts significantly increased use of this safety measure.

Keywords

Citation

Ismail, Z.F., Ismail, T.F. and Wilson, A.J. (2008), "Improving safety for patients with allergies: an intervention for improving allergy documentation", Clinical Governance: An International Journal, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 86-94. https://doi.org/10.1108/14777270810867285

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited