Background: Given the significant potential of continuous quality improvement (CQI) programs in enhancing overall levels of patient safety, community pharmacies in North America are under increasing pressure to have a formal and documented CQI program in place. However, while such initiatives may seem great on paper, in practice the outcomes of such programs to community pharmacy practice remain unclear.
Objective: To explore the perceived outcomes identified by community pharmacies that adopted and actively used a standardized (i.e., common across pharmacies) CQI program for at least 1 year and to develop a framework for how such outcomes were achieved.
Methods: A multi-site study of SafetyNET-Rx, a standardized and technologically sophisticated (e.g., online reporting of medication errors to a national database) CQI program, involving community pharmacies in Nova Scotia, Canada, was performed. During the summer and fall of 2011, 22 interviews were conducted with the CQI facilitators in 12 Nova Scotia community pharmacies; equally split between independent/banners and corporate chains. Of the CQI facilitators, 14 were pharmacists, while the remaining eight were pharmacy technicians. Thematic analysis following the procedures presented by Braun and Clarke was adopted to identify and explore the major outcomes.
Results: Results of the thematic analysis highlighted a number of perceived outcomes from the use of a standardized CQI program in community pharmacies, specifically: (1) perceived reduction in the number of medication errors that were occurring in the pharmacy, (2) increased awareness/confidence of individual actions related to dispensing, (3) increased understanding of the dispensing and related processes/workflow, (4) increased openness to talking about medication errors among pharmacy staff, and (5) quality and safety becoming more entrenched in the workflow (e.g., staff is more aware of their roles and responsibilities in patient safety and confident that the dispensing processes are safe and reliable). In achieving such outcomes, pharmacies had to balance customizing the CQI program to address a number of operational challenges, with ensuring that the core standardized components remained in place.
Conclusions: This research identified the perceived outcomes of CQI program use by CQI facilitators. Additionally, the findings are incorporated into a framework for CQI implementation that can be used by pharmacy managers, corporate head offices, and regulatory authorities to leverage greater CQI adoption and success.
Keywords: Community pharmacy; Error reporting; Interviews; Quality-related events.
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