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(originally published by Booz & Company)


Patient Safety: A Data-Driven Prescription

Pfizer Inc. has begun a hospital patient safety program as well. Recently, the pharmaceutical giant launched a program to print bar codes on packaged pills that identify the medicine, its dosage, its lot number, and its expiration date. The main purpose is to ensure that patients get the right medicine in the right strength, but it would also help in recalls. Overall, it could leave Pfizer less open to litigation over medication errors in hospitals.

Just a few years ago, the issue of patient safety wasn’t on the agenda for most policymakers and health-care experts. It was a slippery problem with few easy solutions, so getting companies and legislators to focus on it was difficult. But skyrocketing costs linked to medical mistakes have changed all of that; suddenly it’s in everyone’s financial and social interest to do something before the costs in dollars and lives are completely out of control. The timing couldn’t be better for this renewed attempt to eliminate medical errors, because proven technology finally offers a way to track patient safety and respond to mistakes. That’s a significant achievement – and it means the last obstacle left is opposition from physicians and hospitals.

Heather Burns, [email protected]
Heather Burns is a senior vice president in Booz Allen Hamilton's McLean, Va., office. She focuses on strategy and technology solutions in the health-care and environmental industries.

Charles Beever, [email protected]
Charles Beever is a vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton based in New York. He assists companies in the medical products, pharmaceutical, and health-care fields with resolving strategic, organization, and performance improvement issues.
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  1. “Health Care’s New Electronic Marketplace,” by J. Philip Lathrop, Gary Ahlquist, and David G. Knott, s+b, 2Q 2000. Click here.
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