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Pharmacist in operating theatre saves $800,000

4 August 2017

Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) has employed Queensland’s first perioperative pharmacist following a successful six-month trial to minimise waste and improve patient safety.

The trial saw monthly surgical medication costs reduced by 9.6 per cent, saving the hospital $279,785 a year and Queensland Health a further $544,208.

Pharmacist Tori Forrester worked with surgical and anaesthetic staff from January to June 2017, to improve medication management in PAH’s 21 operating theatres.

“The two ways you’re going to save money with medications is to either use them more efficiently or obtain more cost-effective medications,” she said. 

“I’ve been working with staff to identify ways we can minimise waste and stay up-to-date with the latest medications available, including [using] generic-brand alternatives.”

Ms Forrester’s recommendations have impacted the whole of Queensland Health, with one switch to a generic-brand alternative saving $500,000 across the state.  

Deputy Director of Anaesthesia Dr David Sturgess said having someone physically present in the operating theatres was a catalyst for clinicians to start thinking about where their pharmacy supplies were coming from and how to use them responsibly.

“Without that direct interaction with pharmacy it’s hard for the clinician in the operating theatre to actually know what things are worth, how they're supplied, what regulations might exist around the pharmaceuticals and what alternatives might exist,” he said.

Dr Sturgess said the new role has also improved patient safety.

“Tori has been conducting audits to improve patient safety and has developed medication guidelines for staff so they know how a drug should be stored and administered,” Dr Sturgess said.

Ms Forrester said patients were getting any uncommon drugs they needed as quickly as possible.

“Naturally the theatres don’t stock every medication, so if they need something urgently that they don’t have I can source the drug from the hospital, check the patient’s record, check how the drug needs to be used and administered and then run the treating team through it.”

Ms Forrester was also recently awarded an Innovation Award at the 2017 National Health Roundtable for improving patient safety, stock management, and staff communication and collaboration.

Dr Sturgess said the new role was drawing attention from across Queensland and interstate.

“Following the Health Roundtable, we are now starting to get enquires about it from other hospitals. About how we implemented it, what our business case looked like, and what the practicalities are in regards to recruitment and retention or talented staff,” he said.

“It comes as no surprise because the new role is funding itself, and patients are getting the benefits of improved safety and quality of care.

“This is a great example of healthcare staff working across specialities to provide the best patient care.”

Last updated 7 August 2017
Last reviewed 4 August 2017

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