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Newfoundland and Labrador: Implementing the Drug Information System

Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) is rolling out The Pharmacy Network, a provincial drug information system that will connect pharmacies in the province.

The network allows pharmacists - and eventually physicians and other authorized health care professionals - to view their patients' medication profiles. The network will improve patient safety by reducing medication errors, adverse drug interactions and prescription duplication.

The network's benefits were demonstrated in the first month when just three pharmacies were online. Pharmacist Tom Healy of St. John's says shortly after the first pharmacies were connected, the new network prevented a narcotic drug from being overdispensed. His pharmacy received a call from a drugstore in Conception Bay North to say a customer there was trying to purchase a codeine product.

"But when the pharmacist put the customer's MCP (Medical Care Plan) number into the system, it immediately came up [that] the prescription was dispensed at Healy's pharmacy three days before. So, we prevented a narcotic from being overdispensed."

Mike Barron, president and chief executive officer of the NL Centre for Health Information (NLCHI), says this incident clearly shows one of the network's benefits. The network will also be able to warn pharmacists when there are possible drug interactions. "The main goal here is to provide a higher degree of patient safety really and just better prescription, medication and health care delivery."

The Pharmacy Network is the largest and most complex information technology project NL has undertaken. It is a component of the provincial electronic health record (EHR) program which is a joint initiative between NLCHI, the provincial government and Canada Health Infoway.

Don Rowe of the NL Pharmacy Board says implementation of the network is a significant milestone in the province. "Pharmacists have recognized from the outset the great value that linking all pharmacy computers could bring and the ways it could help us to provide better pharmaceutical care to our patients."

As of December 1, 2010, 27 of the province's 198 community pharmacies were online. The plan is to have all pharmacies connected by the end of 2011. Plans then call for the 12 hospital-based pharmacies to link to the network by early 2012.

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