Safety Initiative

Medication safety is a top priority at Hackensack University Medical Center, which is one of a select number of institutions in the country that has a dedicated medication safety officer who is assigned to oversee pharmacy safety measures that include: strict adherence to regulatory standards; proactive Medication Safety Committee; technology that bolsters safety practices; and Pursuing Perfection initiatives.

Strict Adherence to Regulatory Standards

Policies and procedures of the Pharmacy Department are in strict compliance with all federal and state laws and regulations, as well as with the standards of the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the guidelines of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). The medical center maintains current registration permits from the New Jersey State Board of Pharmacy, the New Jersey Department of Health, and federal and state drug enforcement agencies.


Medication Safety Committee

The Medication Safety Committee ensures safe medication delivery systems that fortify operational efficiencies. The committee, which is lead by a dedicated medication safety officer and includes members from pharmacy, nursing, the medical staff, and administration, oversees the following:

  • coordination of all medication safety activities.
  • identification of improvements needed to ensure systemic efficiencies.
  • ongoing communications with physicians and nurses to identify areas of improvement.
  • implementation of identified efficiencies and other initiatives.
  • review of performance improvement data.


Technology that Bolsters Safety Practices

The use of advanced technology in Hackensack University Medical Center’s Pharmacy Department bolsters its goal of optimal medication safety practices. This technology includes unit dose drug dispensing, IV additives, and advanced technology and equipment (all described above), as well as a computerized physician order entry system (described below).

The medical center’s longstanding commitment to optimal medication safety continues to be strengthened through many Pursuing Perfection initiatives, some of which include:

  • enforcing even more stringent safety measures that reduce the number of adverse drug events for chemotherapy patients
  • preventing errors through Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA), which is a quality improvement process that identifies problem areas so that solutions can be realized
  • implementing a Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) system.

Other strategies that continue to be developed through this initiative include the use of clinician pharmacists in high-risk patient areas and computerized access to patient education materials pertaining to medication use.

Visit the dedicated web site for Pursuing Perfection to read a comprehensive description about these grant initiatives.


Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) System

A Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) system helps to reduce medication errors and prevent adverse drug events that cause harm to a patient. Safeguards of a computerized ordering system include:


  • less chance of misreading illegible handwriting because all prescriptions are typed into the computer at the point of service.
  • clinical decision support that automatically provides the physician with drug information about the appropriate dosing, routes of administration, and frequency.
  • based on each patient profile, the physician is alerted to potential drug contraindications and allergies.  

Drug Formulary
Hackensack University Medical Center maintains a comprehensive drug formulary, which is a pre-determined inventory of drugs and medications that is continually updated and revised based on the clinical judgment of the medical staff. The formulary includes drugs that are considered safe and effective. Maintaining a drug formulary reduces costs by minimizing the duplication of the types of medications that are kept in stock.

Pharmaceutical Research
The Pharmacy Department actively supports physician investigators who conduct drug research at Hackensack University Medical Center. The pharmacy stocks and dispenses investigational drugs in accordance with the study’s protocol, which is a pre-determined set of rules for an experiment. These directions are submitted by the principal investigator and include pertinent information regarding the pharmacological and therapeutic properties of investigational medications, dosing and monitoring parameters, and control guidelines.

The clinical pharmacy coordinator oversees investigational drug usage and clinician pharmacists provide education to the nursing staff regarding proper usage and side effects. As an integral part of the research study, the department also is responsible for accountability, storage, and inventory supply counts.


Patient and Staff Education
The Pharmacy Department provides a comprehensive array of drug educational opportunities, including patient education, education for healthcare professionals, and the Pharmacy Residency Program.


Patient Education
Drug information services for patients include:

  •   CareNotes™ Printed Information
  •   Inpatient Education
  •   Speaker’s Bureau
  •   Health Awareness Regional Program (HARP)

CareNotes™ Printed Information: Patients at the medical center are provided comprehensive CareNotes™ patient education leaflets that provide easy-to-understand information on health topics including drug information. CareNotes™ is a computerized reference tool that enables physicians and nurses to research and print out up-to-date information about the most frequently administered prescription and nonprescription drugs. The content is fully researched, authoritative, evidence-based information compiled by accomplished health professionals and reviewed by the editorial board of Micromedex®, the manufacturer of the program.

Inpatient Education: Clinician pharmacists provide direct education to patients both while they are hospitalized and upon discharge.

Speaker’s Bureau: Clinician pharmacists are available to speak to community groups on educational topics about medications. To inquire about a clinician pharmacist speaking to your group, contact Arpi Kuyumjian, Clinical Coordinator.

Health Awareness Regional Program (HARP): The Health Awareness Regional Program (HARP) of Hackensack University Medical Center provides health promotion, illness prevention, and educational services that include topics on drug information. HARP works with communities and groups throughout the region. Read about HARP’s diversified health programs: Health Awareness Regional Program.

Education for Healthcare Professionals
Clinician pharmacists routinely conduct educational lectures for medical and nursing personnel, and they provide orientation for residents, fellows, and attending physicians. Another educational source for medical providers is computerized access to Micromedex® HCS, a tool that is located on the Hackensack University Medical Center Intranet. At the click of a button, users can review in-depth, referenced data on dosing, pharmacokinetics, interactions, clinical applications, and efficacy, etc. for FDA- approved, investigational, and international drugs.



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