NORMAN — Renal insufficiency, or the kidney’s inability to properly filter blood, is more common than you might think. According to Norman Regional Health System employees, an estimated 5.6 million Americans have some degree of insufficiency.
And that’s why Norman Regional is taking steps to protect patients.
The hospital’s Renal Dosing Program adjusts patient medication dosages based on lab work that gives an estimate of the patient’s renal function. From the program’s start in April 2012 to December, the hospital performed 3,327 screenings and 1,716 interventions.
“The idea is that we’re hopefully reducing the likelihood that someone is overdosed or underdosed on a medication, based on their renal function or kidney function — then they should have less adverse events,” said Darin Smith, Norman Regional director of Pharmacy.
In light of this week’s National Patient Safety Awareness Week, Smith said the program serves patients in many ways, including saving money by decreasing the amount of medication used and possibly even shortening hospital stays.
“That’s kind of an added benefit,” he said on the saved money. “The real reason to do this is probably safety and making sure everything is right for the patient.”
The program currently runs labs to screen approximately 30 medications, said Lisa Mayer, clinical pharmacy specialist. After reading the labs, pharmacists either leave a recommendation for the pharmacist in the patient chart about adjusting, discontinuing or using an alternate medication or, on certain medications, they can automatically adjust the dosage.
“We just follow up each day to see if our recommendation was accepted,” Mayer said, “and the other patients, if their renal function improves, we change the medication back.”
All pharmacists operate under a standard protocol to ensure accurate dosing across the board, Smith said. Adjusting medications uniformly with the program protects patients against many issues.
“There’s some drugs that might be toxic enough, it might cause organ damage. Other drugs might accumulate and cause problems with mentation and function of normal mental status,” Smith said. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone could die from a complication.”
On a daily basis, Smith said the pharmacy screens approximately 30 patients’ renal function from all of Norman Regional’s campuses. In the future, Smith said they are hoping to increase the number of screened medications as well as hopefully attain surveillance software to make the program more efficient.
The Renal Dosing Program won the 2012 Jerry D. Leu, MD Healthcare Excellence Award.
Renal Dosing Program team members include Fran Esfahani, Brian Hughes, Betsy Nelson, Lisa Mayer, Debbie Poland, Stefanie Stogsdill and distribution pharmacists at all Norman Regional campuses.
Patient Safety Awareness Week is an annual education and awareness campaign for health care safety led by the National Patient Safety Foundation.
For more information on Patient Safety Awareness Week, visit www.npsf.org.