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Online drug information system improves patient health and safety

Pharmacist Jeff Jardine of Montague, Prince Edward Island, says the province's Drug Information System (DIS) has done a lot to contribute to improved patient health and safety.

"It helps us catch things. For example, in the past, if a patient went to another pharmacist as well as me, I didn't know," Jardine said. "So if there was a possible drug interaction or other problem with a prescription, I was not aware of it. Now we can see the complete picture - what is prescribed by whom, where and when."

Jardine, who has been using the DIS since it went online in 2008, says people are often not aware of what medications they are taking. "Or they may not be taking the right dose to match their diagnosis. The extra information we get from the system helps us understand the prescription and make appropriate recommendations if necessary."

The province's DIS system provides better continuity for patient care. Jardine says this is very important because patients may go to the doctor and, if he isn't there or is unavailable, they go to the hospital - and then they have prescriptions from both places. This does happen a lot, but the system picks it up.

"Then I have to tell the customer they already have a prescription for this drug so I can't fill it. Usually it is a mistake on their part or a misunderstanding about the two prescriptions being the same. But there are those who look to abuse the system by doubling up on prescriptions - and the DIS prevents this."

If the system flags a potential drug interaction or related problem with a new prescription, Jardine says he calls the issuing physician to discuss it. He says most patients don't mind when he makes them wait while he follows up with the doctor.

Jardine has been a pharmacist for 17 years and says he would not want to go back to the old paper-based system. "This works very well and will be even more helpful when they add the extra functionality." He explained plans call for adding access to lab results, diagnosis and referrals. "It will be good to be aware of those. If we see that a patient has been to a cardiologist or neurologist, it will explain a new prescription," he said.

"We are only scratching the surface of what we can do with this system," he added. "The bottom line is that we all have to realize it is about the patient. Their safety, their health is of utmost importance and this system helps us do our job and contribute towards that."

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