The Power of Partnership: The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) Canada

With Carolyn Hoffman, President and CEO, ISMP Canada
The Power of Partnership, ISMP Canada

Welcome to our series on the many HIROC partners who make a difference in safe care. Introducing ISMP Canada...

How ISMP Canada came to be…

In the 1990s in North America, the term patient safety had started bubbling up. Until then, patient safety incidents were viewed through a “bad apple” lens – focusing on and blaming the healthcare provider for their error. Leaders began to realize that when individuals enter the system, it (the system) often creates challenges and risk. There was a growing awareness that blaming providers did not reduce the risk of the same or similar thing happening to other patients – that “we” could do better.

It was around this time that the concept of ISMP Canada was born. A 1999 Coroner’s Inquest into the death of an infant from morphine toxicity recommended the creation of a non-profit organization similar to the American ISMP. Its role would be to collect and disseminate information on medication errors and to make recommendations for medication system improvements. 

Founded by a small team of five, ISMP Canada was officially incorporated in 2000 as an independent sister organization to the American ISMP.  Many of these amazing individuals are still with ISMP Canada today as employees, board members, and advisors.

Why partner with HIROC…

For ISMP Canada and HIROC, there’s been a relationship since those early days through ISMP Canada’s first board – one of its Directors was Eleanor Morton, HIROC’s Vice President of Risk Management at the time. Morton’s approach was about doing the right thing for patient safety – if you can do something better, you should do it. Morton, past President & CEO David U, Professor John Senders, and others, embraced this approach with ISMP Canada’s board and staff. Together they identified and worked to address emerging safety issues. 

Today HIROC still has a connection with ISMP Canada’s board, and there is a strong CEO-CEO relationship based on mentorship and collaboration. The two organizations partner to identify safety risks and to share resources and expertise across the healthcare system. 

What’s on the go at ISMP Canada…

For the team at ISMP Canada, there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming months and years – projects and initiatives that are connected with their 2018-2020 Strategic Plan and its five strategic directions (Enable, Educate, Deliver, Innovate, and Engage).

One such project is a joint venture to develop educational support for the mandatory reporting requirements under Vanessa’s Law (Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act). The law increases Health Canada’s ability to receive information and take quick and appropriate action when a serious health risk is identified. ISMP Canada, Health Standards Organization (HSO), and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI) worked with Health Canada to develop four key modules  designed to assist hospitals, educators, healthcare providers, as well as patients and families in promoting the reporting of serious adverse drug reactions and medical device incidents. The modules were released in July and have already had an impressive number of downloads from the healthcare community.

ISMP Canada and CPSI also worked together with patients, family members and healthcare providers in 2016 to create the 5 Questions to Ask about Your Medications. What’s amazing is that today over 200 healthcare organizations (including local, national and provincial organizations) around the world use the resource. It has been translated into multiple languages and is being used by patients, families, healthcare providers and organizations, and municipalities to educate communities about medication use and the associated risks. 

Recognizing the success with the 5 Questions, ISMP Canada recently developed a similar resource for the use of opioids for pain after surgery. It provides answers to the same 5 questions for those patients that have been prescribed opioids for pain. The new resource is another way to bring patients, families, providers and organizations together in a conversation about safety. 

Another initiative on the horizon for ISMP Canada is consumer reporting, currently occurring through ISMP Canada recognizes that as a system, medication safety issues are consistently underreported even if online reporting is available. That’s why increasing the quality and quantity of reports is a key component of their strategic plan. 

Coming soon for ISMP Canada along the lines of consumer reporting is a co-design Sprint Workshop in partnership with patients, family advisors, incident reporting experts, and representatives of healthcare organizations. At the event the participants will be looking at how to increase reporting by consumers, designing possible solutions, and testing prototypes.

For both ISMP Canada and HIROC, when you bring different groups together around issues that affect our healthcare system, particularly issues around patient safety, you walk the talk and reinforce the importance of partnership in making long-term and effective system improvements. 

This series was originally published in the Fall 2019 edition of The HIROC Connection.