VIHA thwarts errors with technology

Dr. Christina Vuksic knows she isn’t perfect. As medical director of quality and patient safety, Vuksic also knows she’s in good company.

Dr. Christina Vuksic

Dr. Christina Vuksic knows she isn’t perfect.

As medical director of quality and patient safety with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, Vuksic also knows she’s in good company.

“Almost every caregiver, whether a nurse, doctor or pharmacist, has probably experienced a medical error,” she said, recalling her own close call with a patient in the days before electronic medical records.

“We had a patient come in on a pre-existing medication, unbeknownst to staff. I wrote an order to start that patient on a blood thinner,” she said.

The patient was taking another drug that, when combined with the blood thinner, led to internal bleeding.

Although the patient did eventually recover and was discharged, Vuksic acknowledged her team “did more harm than good in that situation.”

It’s stories like Vuksic’s that make the health authority’s recent purchase of nine new medication dispensing cabinets worth their $500,000 price tag.

The machines act as a fail-safe dispensing unit for hospital caregivers, using electronic information from pharmacists. When a patient’s file is accessed, the machine dispenses only the exact medication for that patient and locks out other drugs.

The Victoria Hospitals Foundation is dedicating its fall campaign to paying for the new machines, which are part of Royal Jubilee’s Patient Care Centre. Last year, the foundation raised $8.4 million for both Jubilee and Victoria General Hospital.

“Often, the public aren’t aware of the scope of health services that go on in our hospital every day,” said Melanie McKenzie, the foundation’s executive director.

Its annual Visions gala dinner will be held Nov. 17 at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, an event that brought in $450,000 last year.

“We live in an incredibly generous community,” McKenzie said.

Vuksic said while the machines are fantastic, they signal something much broader in VIHA’s approach to patient care.

“Medication safety … starts with a culture that mistakes will happen, and people need to learn from them,” she said.

“This is a recipe for quality in health care.”

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