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Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2010 Aug;67(16 Suppl 8):S17-21. doi: 10.2146/ajhp100173.

Pharmacists' role in ensuring safe and effective hospital use of insulin.

Author information

1
Institute for Safe Medication Practices, 200 Lakeside Drive, Suite 200, Horsham, PA 19044, USA. mcohen@ismp.org

Abstract

PURPOSE:

To highlight the potential errors that may occur with insulin use in the inpatient setting and to describe how pharmacists can be part of the solution by implementing practices that reduce the likelihood of insulin-related medication errors.

SUMMARY:

Insulin is a drug with a low therapeutic index, and it bears a heightened risk of causing significant patient harm when used in error, making it a high-alert medication. Both underdosing and overdosing of insulin may be associated with adverse outcomes. The use of standard insulin order sets for scheduled subcutaneous insulin administration and standard concentrations for i.v. insulin are recommended to ensure the safe use of this medication. Any ambiguous insulin therapy orders should be clarified in writing prior to administration. Preparation of all insulin infusions should occur within the pharmacy. Pharmacists should be aware of possible medication errors related to inappropriate use of abbreviations such as U for units. Safe insulin storage practices are recommended to reduce the risk for insulin error. Insulin pen delivery devices may be used in hospitals, but safe use depends on ongoing oversight by a multidisciplinary committee, introduction of one device at a time, and initial and regular follow-up education of nurses, including agency nurses and those who work part-time. In addition, ongoing monitoring is needed to assure ongoing safety. The use of sliding-scale insulin can lead to hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia and is confusing and prone to error; it is not recommended.

CONCLUSION:

Pharmacists can contribute to the safe use of insulin in the inpatient setting by minimizing the likelihood of medication errors related to prescribing, transcription, dispensing, administration, storage, and communication.

PMID:
20689148
DOI:
10.2146/ajhp100173
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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