Medicine Safety in Australian Healthcare: A National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standard

Medicine Safety in Australian Healthcare
Andrew Renaut

Australia's healthcare system ranks well globally

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia is currently ranking above the top countries in the world (i.e. US and United Kingdom) with a globally efficient healthcare system. Nevertheless, as efforts continue to improve the performance of health care services, one of the largest concerns in reference to health care planners, nurses, general practitioners and patients is the safety and quality of health care, particularly safety in the context of drugs and medication.

The growing need for improving medication quality and safety

When it comes to prescribing medication, the process is quite complex as it involves taking into consideration various factors that may impact the patient’s health, including:

  • determining whether a drug is required based on the patient’s physiologic status
  • choosing the most appropriate drug
  • scheduling an appropriate dosage
  • monitoring the effectiveness and toxicity of that drug
  • educating the patient about possible risks and side effects
  • indicating to the patient when to seek a consultation.

If not used appropriately, medications can result in harm or, in some cases, death, which therefore indicates that medicines are associated with more errors and adverse effects than any other aspect of heath care. While rates of serious harm are low, there are still cases where these errors do impact patient health and healthcare costs.

According to Clinical Excellence Commission, it has been reported that 27% of all clinical incidents in the Australian health care system have been medication incidents, estimating a cost of $660 million per year. The prevalence of medication errors has therefore intensified the need for improving the safety and quality of medication usage in Australia as one of its top priorities and making it a National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standard at the level of both individual practice and within systems for managing medicines.