Background: Hospital medication practices should be assessed, awareness of the characteristics of a safe medication system heightened, and baseline data to identify national priorities established.
Design: A cross-sectional survey of U.S. hospitals (N = 6,180) was conducted in May 2000. The survey instrument contained 194 self-assessment items organized into 20 core characteristics and 10 larger domains. Hospitals were asked to voluntarily submit their confidential assessment data to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) for aggregate analysis.
Method: A weighting structure was applied to the individual items and used to calculate core characteristic scores, domain scores, and overall self-assessment scores. These scores were then compared to identify areas most in need of improvement.
Results: The 1,435 participating hospitals scored highest in domains related to drug storage and distribution; environmental factors; infusion pumps; and medication labeling, packaging, and nomenclature issues. These hospitals scored lowest in domains related to accessible patient information, communication of medication orders, patient education, and quality processes such as double-check systems and organizational culture.
Conclusions: Enormous opportunities exist to improve medication safety, especially in domains related to culture, information management, and communication.