SPOKANE – Two WSU researchers will receive $300,000 over three years to test a novel system for empowering nurses to quickly and accurately identify and resolve medication-related problems for patients transferring from hospital to home care.

Cindy Corbett

This grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will ultimately help nurses address a longstanding problem for both patients and caregivers who need better alerts to potentially detect serious conflicts between medicines prescribed before, during and after hospitalization.

The project is funded through the Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI), which generates and disseminates research showing the link between what nurses do and the contributions they make to advancing better care for patients. The grant is the largest that WSU has ever received from the New Jersey-based foundation and the first research RWJF grant directly made to the WSU College of Nursing.
“Nearly 3 million patients are transitioned annually from hospital to home-care services, with documented risk for adverse effects from discrepancies in their medication,” said WSU College of Nursing faculty member Cindy Corbett, who will lead the research along with WSU College of Pharmacy faculty member Steve Setter. “The new grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will help us conduct a thorough clinical trial of a new software system we have been developing to improve nurses’ abilities to detect and resolve potentially harmful drug combinations in a timely manner.”

Steve Setter

“WSU is proud to lead this important research effort, which promises to have a broad impact on patient safety and improve the effectiveness of home nursing,” said Howard Grimes, WSU vice president for research. “The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s goal to help Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need is of course a goal shared by the university’s growing programs in the health sciences.”

Both Corbett and Setter were part of a smaller pilot project that demonstrated the potential for a nurse-pharmacist collaboration to effectively identify and resolve medication discrepancies as patients transition from the hospital to receiving home health-care services. WSU College of Nursing Dean Patricia Butterfield confirmed the need to expand the pilot project to further demonstrate the lead role nurses can play in enhancing patient outcomes. “Giving home-care nurses good tools for helping patients through difficult transitions in their health care will be a win-win for both patients and caregivers,” she said.

The software under development will be an electronic decision support tool to facilitate comparison of hospital discharge medications with medications patients report taking at home. “The opportunity to identify and resolve medication discrepancies by a nurse in collaboration with pharmacy input is a unique and very desirable approach to ensuring that vulnerable patients receive optimal and safe medication,” Setter explained.

Additional nursing faculty serving on the project are WSU College of Nursing faculty members Kenn Daratha and Alice Dupler. Other pharmacy faculty include Josh Neumiller, Doug Weeks and David Sclar.

The interdisciplinary team’s work will build upon related studies on medication discrepancy resolution in acute care settings. A prior study by the researchers showed that 66 percent of the patients who participated in the study had experienced medication problems during their transition from hospital to home care.

If the research team’s hypotheses are correct, the study will show that home care nurses, supplied with the appropriate tools to identify and resolve possible medication problems, can enhance patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

“It takes a nurse to make a difference in the quality of care we get in hospitals, but if that nurse is overworked, under-motivated or lacks adequate support to keep patients healthy and safe, we all suffer,” said INQRI director Mary Naylor, Marian S. Ware Professor in Gerontology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. “Without evidence linking nurses to better patient care, their contributions often go unrecognized. This project aims to supply that evidence.”

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving health and health care of all Americans, the foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years, the foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves.