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Mobile technologies in healthcare: systematising the move from point solutions to broad strategies

Quality and Safety in Health Care Journal -

The presence of powerful computers in the pockets of most patients should transform how we practise medicine. Yet changes in practice to date have remained modest and occurred only gradually.1 Applications of new technologies often only emerge once the underlying technologies have become ubiquitous and long passed the period of counting as new. As one writer put it: ‘Communication tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.’2 Once a technology reaches the stage of being taken for granted, it becomes easier to harness it for new functions and activities.

Cellphones with short message service (SMS) or text messaging first appeared 25 years ago,3 and by 2010, users were sending 6.1 trillion texts per year globally.4 This tool had obvious applications for communication between physicians or to advise about critical lab results, where information could be displayed directly rather necessitating...

Improving adherence to high-value medications through prescription cost-sharing policies

Quality and Safety in Health Care Journal -

Many countries and health systems are struggling with growing healthcare expenditures in general, and those for prescription drugs in particular. The USA is no exception, with pharmaceutical spending per capita above that of any other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development country.1 Cost-sharing through copayments or coinsurance is a common approach to attempt to manage drug spending and utilisation. However, although cost-sharing reduces potentially unnecessary medication use,2 it also reduces adherence to needed medications. Reduced adherence can lead to long-term health detriments and to offsetting costs.3–5 The effects of cost-sharing may be exacerbated among low-income individuals.6 7

Most previous studies of the impact of cost-sharing on adherence have focused on patients who have filled a prescription at least once. In contrast, there are fewer studies focused on adherence to filling the initial prescription. In this issue,...

Comparing standard office-based follow-up with text-based remote monitoring in the management of postpartum hypertension: a randomised clinical trial

Quality and Safety in Health Care Journal -

Background

Monitoring blood pressure at 72 hours and 7–10 days post partum in women with hypertensive disorders is recommended to decrease morbidity. However, there are no recommendations as to how to achieve this.

Objective

To compare the effectiveness of text-based blood pressure monitoring to in-person visits for women with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy in the immediate postpartum period.

Methods

Randomised clinical trial among 206 postpartum women with pregnancy-related hypertension diagnosed during the delivery admission between August 2016 and January 2017. Women were randomised to 2 weeks of text-based surveillance using a home blood pressure cuff and previously tested automated platform or usual care blood pressure check at their prenatal clinic 4–6 days following discharge. The primary study outcome was a single recorded blood pressure in the first 10 days post partum. The ability to meet American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines, defined as having a blood pressure recorded on postpartum days 3–4 and 7–10 was evaluated in the text message group. The study was powered to detect a 1.4-fold increase in a single recorded blood pressure using text messaging. All outcomes were analysed as intention to treat.

Results

206 women were randomised (103 in each arm). Baseline characteristics were similar. There was a statistically significant increase in a single blood pressure obtained in the texting group in the first 10 days post partum as compared with the office group (92.2% vs 43.7%; adjusted OR 58.2 (16.2–208.1), p<0.001). Eighty-four per cent of patients undergoing text-based surveillance met ACOG criteria for blood pressures at both recommended points.

Conclusions

Text-based monitoring is more effective in obtaining blood pressures and meeting current clinical guidelines in the immediate postdischarge period in women with pregnancy-related hypertension compared with traditional office-based follow-up.

Trial registration number

NCT03185455, Remote Surveillance of Postpartum Hypertension (TextBP), https://clinicaltrials.gov.

Effect of copayment policies on initial medication non-adherence according to income: a population-based study

Quality and Safety in Health Care Journal -

Objective

Copayment policies aim to reduce the burden of medication expenditure but may affect adherence and generate inequities in access to healthcare. The objective was to evaluate the impact of two copayment measures on initial medication non-adherence (IMNA) in several medication groups and by income level.

Design

A population-based study was conducted using real-world evidence.

Setting

Primary care in Catalonia (Spain) where two separate copayment measures (fixed copayment and coinsurance) were introduced between 2011 and 2013.

Participant

Every patient with a new prescription issued between 2011 and 2014 (3 million patients and 10 million prescriptions).

Outcomes

IMNA was estimated throughout dispensing and invoicing information. Changes in IMNA prevalence after the introduction of copayment policies (immediate level change and trend changes) were estimated through segmented logistic regression. The regression models were stratified by economic status and medication groups.

Results

Before changes to copayment policies, IMNA prevalence remained stable. The introduction of a fixed copayment was followed by a statistically significant increase in IMNA in poor population, low/middle-income pensioners and low-income non-pensioners (OR from 1.047 to 1.370). In high-income populations, there was a large statistically non-significant increase. IMNA decreased in the low-income population after suspension of the fixed copayment and the introduction of a coinsurance policy that granted this population free access to medications (OR=0.676). Penicillins were least affected while analgesics were affected to the greatest extent. IMNA to medications for chronic conditions increased in low/middle-income pensioners.

Conclusion

Even nominal charge fixed copayment may generate inequities in access to health services. An anticipation effect and expenses associated with IMNA may have generated short-term costs. A reduction in copayment can protect from non-adherence and have positive, long-term effects. Copayment scenarios could have considerable long-term consequences for health and costs due to increased IMNA in medication for chronic physical conditions.

Errors and discrepancies in the administration of intravenous infusions: a mixed methods multihospital observational study

Quality and Safety in Health Care Journal -

Introduction

Intravenous medication administration has traditionally been regarded as error prone, with high potential for harm. A recent US multisite study revealed few potentially harmful errors despite a high overall error rate. However, there is limited evidence about infusion practices in England and how they relate to prevalence and types of error.

Objectives

To determine the prevalence, types and severity of errors and discrepancies in infusion administration in English hospitals, and to explore sources of variation, including the contribution of smart pumps.

Methods

We conducted an observational point prevalence study of intravenous infusions in 16 National Health Service hospital trusts. Observers compared each infusion against the medication order and local policy. Deviations were classified as errors or discrepancies based on their potential for patient harm. Contextual issues and reasons for deviations were explored qualitatively during observer debriefs.

Results

Data were collected from 1326 patients and 2008 infusions. Errors were observed in 231 infusions (11.5%, 95% CI 10.2% to 13.0%). Discrepancies were observed in 1065 infusions (53.0%, 95% CI 50.8% to 55.2%). Twenty-three errors (1.1% of all infusions) were considered potentially harmful; none were judged likely to prolong hospital stay or result in long-term harm. Types and prevalence of errors and discrepancies varied widely among trusts, as did local policies. Deviations from medication orders and local policies were sometimes made for efficiency or patient need. Smart pumps, as currently implemented, had little effect, with similar error rates observed in infusions delivered with and without a smart pump (10.3% vs 10.8%, p=0.8).

Conclusion

Errors and discrepancies are relatively common in everyday infusion administrations but most have low potential for patient harm. Better understanding of performance variability to strategically manage risk may be a more helpful tactic than striving to eliminate all deviations.

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