A new ECRI Institute study identifies safe technology practices to help reduce patient harm due to drug allergy interactions. Their new report, Safe Practices for Drug Allergies: Using Clinical Decision Support and Health IT, was developed by the Partnership for Health IT Patient Safety, a multi-stakeholder collaborative convened and operated by ECRI Institute.

Drug allergy alerts are designed to safeguard against prescribing or dispensing medications to patients with documented allergies. However, override rates of drug allergy alerts remain on the rise—from 50% in the mid-1990s to almost 90% in 2015. Clinicians are potentially exposed to 123 unnecessary alerts to prevent just one adverse drug event—impacting their perceived credibility of alerts.

“In spite of alerts, patients with drug allergies are still at risk,” says Marcus Schabacker, MD, PhD, president and CEO of ECRI Institute. “Safer technology practices can help.”

ECRI’s report outlines actionable practices for healthcare leaders to implement throughout their systems:

  1. Use technology to standardize the documentation of drug allergy status.
  2. Provide actionable alerts to improve the safety and effectiveness of drug allergy communications.
  3. Use technology to monitor the effectiveness of allergy alerts.
  4. Engage patients through the use of technology to provide accurate drug allergy communications.

Safe Practices for Drug Allergies: Using CDS and Health IT is based on expert study, event reports in ECRI Institute Patient Safety Organization (PSO) and partner PSO databases, an evidence-based literature review, and methodical analysis by a Partnership workgroup.

The multi-stakeholder workgroup was co-chaired by Michael R. Cohen, RPh, MS, president, and Christina Michalek, RPh, BSc Pharm, medication safety specialist, at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP). The workgroup analyzed expert recommendations to determine how technology could better provide the right drug allergy information to the right person, in the right format, through the right channel, at the right time in the workflow to facilitate safety.

“Access to accurate and up-to-date drug allergy information is a vital component to effective, safe, and timely patient care,” says Cohen. “Using the strategies suggested in this report will go a long way to making this happen.”

This new report is the fifth in a series of safe practices and implementation toolkits published since 2014. The report is available for worldwide use at www.ecri.org/hit/safe-practices.