Medical dictionary should help prevent medication mistakes

By Tony Collins

The Department of Health says that a medicines dictionary, which is approved today, will make medical errors less likely by ensuring all staff who work in the NHS and healthcare use the same terminology when referring to medicines.

The Information Standards Board for Health and Social Care has approved the NHS dictionary of medicines and devices – called “dm+d” –  as a standard which, says the Department of Health,  “must be used by all staff”.

The DH says that “all doctors, nurses and pharmacists should move towards using the common medicines dictionary so that information exchanged electronically is accurate and safe”.

Using a single drug terminology will “enable information about patients’ medicines to transfer more effectively between different healthcare settings, reducing the risk of medication mistakes caused by human error”.

The NHS dictionary of medicines and devices is already used in the UK for the exchange of clinical information, including the Electronic Prescription Service and for patients’ Summary Care Records.

Dr Charles Gutteridge, National Clinical Director for Informatics at the Department of Health and Medical Director, Barts and the London NHS Trust said

“The adoption of dm+d is an important milestone. It will mean clearer and consistent communication throughout the NHS ensuring health professionals in all care settings …. I encourage all clinicians to accelerate their use of this common medical dictionary for the benefit of the patients we care for.”

Heidi Wright, from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said “The Royal Pharmaceutical Society supports the need for a single terminology to facilitate interoperability and to enable such initiatives as the Electronic prescription Service (EPS). We believe that the opportunities created for using dm+d are substantial in terms of interoperability, opportunities for comparison and reducing variation, enhancing patient safety i.e. reducing risks associated with system interfaces and providing links to clinical systems such as the British National Formulary .”

The dictionary contains unique identifiers and associated textual descriptions for medicines and medical devices.  It was developed and delivered through a partnership between the Department of Health Informatics Directorate  and the NHS Business Services Authority.

The DH Information Strategy says that  reducing the number of inconsistent or incompatible terminologies will allow better integration between systems and across health and social care, and better information to support care and improvement of care.

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