Systems Engineering and Patient Safety

Systems Engineering and Patient Safety

When contemplating the concept and promulgation of operations management directives, patient safety and quality of performance must take top priority. After all, the pharmacy, regardless of setting, is dealing with medications and services that impact the very lives of the patients we serve.   

The concepts of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), Total Quality Management (TQM), and patient safety are unique but related. CQI suggests that the business not be content with relatively good, even excellent track records in performance. TQM perhaps takes an even broader approach, suggesting that the business operates around an entire culture of quality; i.e., that maximum quality is sought not only in the final product but in every component of each good and/or service delivered. A TQM mindset can be very informative and even serve as the basis for operations management oversight.

Systems re-engineering is rightfully gaining much attention in pharmacy and other medical literatures. It involves a careful examination of job descriptions, job designs, roles, workflow, equipment/capital used, and even positioning of personnel to allow for maximum productivity. It involves “zero tolerance” (without a blame culture) for mistakes or other untoward events. This is important in pharmacy practice.

A study by Chui, Mott, and Maxwell1 found momentous levels of agreement among pharmacy personnel in identifying key components of a System Engineering Initiative for Patient Safety (SEIPS) for the pharmacy. The SEIPS model is a type of work-systems or operations management approach that is demonstrated to facilitate the implementation of cognitive pharmaceutical services and minimize errors that jeopardize patient outcomes.  

Additional information about Operations Management, Ensuring Quality in Pharmacy Operations, and Preventing and Managing Medication Errors: The Pharmacist’s Role can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.

1Chui MA, Mott DA, Maxwell L. A qualitative assessment of a community pharmacy cognitive services program, using a work systems approach. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2012;8:206-216.