Theses Doctoral

Patient Engagement to Improve Medication Safety in the Hospital

Prey, Jennifer Elizabeth

Purpose: There is a pressing need to enhance patient safety in the hospital environment. While there are many initiatives that focus on improving patient safety, few have studied engaging patients themselves to participate in patient safety efforts. This work was motived by the belief that patients can contribute valuable information to their care and when equipped with the right tools, can play a role in improving medication safety in the hospital.
Methods: This research had three aims and used a mixed-methods approach to better understand the concept of engaging patients to improve medication safety. In order to gain insight into whether patients could beneficially contribute to the safety of their hospital care, my first aim was to understand current perspectives on the sharing of clinical information with patients while they were in the hospital. To accomplish this aim, I conducted surveys with clinicians and enrolled patients in a short field study in which they received full access to their clinical chart. In Aim 2, I conducted a study to establish that the Patient Activation Measure (PAM), a common measure of patient engagement in the outpatient setting, showed reliability and validity in the inpatient setting. Building on the knowledge from Aim 1 and using the PAM instrument from Aim 2, my third aim evaluated the impact of providing patients with access to a medication review tool while they were preparing to be admitted to the hospital. Aim 3 was achieved through a randomized controlled trial (RCT) involving 65 patients I recruited from the emergency department at Columbia University Medical Center. I also conducted a survey of admitting clinicians who had patients participate in the trial to identify the impact on clinician practices and to elicit feedback on their perceptions of the intervention.
Results: My research findings suggest that increased patient information sharing in the inpatient setting is beneficial and desirable to patients, and generally acceptable to clinicians. The clinician survey from Aim 1 showed that most respondents were comfortable with the idea of providing patients with their clinical information. Some expressed reservations that patients might misunderstand information and become unnecessarily alarmed or offended. In the patient field study from Aim 1, patients reported perceiving the information they received as highly useful, even if they did not fully understand complex medical terms. My primary contribution in Aim 2 was to provide sound evidence that the Patient Activation Measure is a valid and reliable tool for use in the inpatient setting. Establishing the validity and reliability of the PAM instrument in inpatient setting was essential for conducting the RCT in Aim 3, and it will provide a foundation for future clinicians and research investigators to measure and understand hospital patients’ levels of engagement.
The results from the RCT in Aim 3 did not support my primary hypothesis that clinicians who had patients participate in their medication review process using an informatics tool would make more changes to the home medication list than clinicians who had patients in the control group. However, the results did suggest that most hospital patients are knowledgeable, willing, and able to contribute useful and important information to the medication reconciliation process. Interestingly, the clinicians I surveyed seemed far less convinced that their patients would be able to beneficially participate in the medication reconciliation process due to low health literacy and other barriers. Nevertheless, the clinicians did seem to believe that in theory, at least, patient involvement in the medication reconciliation process could have positive impacts on their workflow and potentially save them time.
Conclusion: The overall theme resulting from my research is that patients can be a valuable resource to improve patient safety in the hospital. Patients are generally knowledgeable and willing to more actively participate in their hospital care. By developing the structures and processes to facilitate greater patient engagement, hospitals can provide an extra layer of safety and error prevention, particularly with respect to the medications patients take at home. As with any medical treatment, active participation in patient safety efforts may not be possible for all patients. However, I believe that if the culture of a hospital encourages openness and transparency, and if patients are given the proper tools and information, the quality and safety of hospital care will improve.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Biomedical Informatics
Thesis Advisors
Vawdrey, David K.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 16, 2016