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Saskatchewan celebrates improvements to patient safety

Nov 26, 2019

Categories: Contracting, News

On Sept. 17, 2019, the province of Saskatchewan celebrated important improvements to patient safety.

“Over the last number of years, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and 3sHealth joined forces with six other provinces to raise awareness among pharmaceutical suppliers of what our hospitals needed to help safeguard our patients,” said Cathy Coote, Manager, Business Administration and Inventory Systems at the Saskatchewan Health Authority. “By working with industry, we have made important advancements in barcoding, advance notification, and new products that can help mitigate medication errors and make the supply chain more efficient.”
The pan-Canadian effort was co-ordinated through HealthPRO, the national group purchasing organization that 3sHealth partners with for healthcare contracts.
“It was our honour to amplify the needs of member hospitals through the Transforming Together campaign,” said Christine Donaldson, Vice President, Pharmacy at HealthPRO. “Through the commitment of so many dedicated individuals in the Saskatchewan healthcare system and across the country, we have collectively moved the needle forward to improve the safety of patients.”
Successes achieved to date for Saskatchewan patients and families include:
1. 20 per cent increase in barcodes on a medication’s unit-of-use
Barcodes on an injectable medication’s unit-of-use (vial, ampoule, pre-mixed bag) can help safeguard against errors at the most vulnerable stage of the medication use process – during administration to a patient. Evidence shows that a scan verification of the medication at the bedside can help reduce patient error in hospitals by up to 41 per cent .
Prior to the launch of this campaign, many of the commercial products delivered to hospitals did have barcodes on the external packaging or box, but not on the unit-of-use, the format that would ultimately be administered to a patient. The absence of this critical verification feature can introduce risk and the need for hospital pharmacy staff to assume the task of creating and applying barcodes, often a manual and time-consuming undertaking.
Overall, this campaign propelled a 20 per cent increase in barcodes on the unit-of-use by the supplier, minimizing the risk of medication errors.
2. Implemented a national protocol for the advance notification of product changes
Saskatchewan’s hospital pharmacies are increasingly automated, featuring a wide array of technology from robotics, automated packaging and labelling machines, to optical verifiers and compounding pumps.
This automation is designed to enhance resource efficiencies and contribute to medication safety. However, without sufficient notice unexpected and sometimes serious consequences – including medication errors – can occur when changes are made to pharmaceutical products that interface with these technologies.
To reduce such consequences, many pharmaceutical suppliers now provide at least 60 days’ advance notice of product changes to HealthPRO, which in turn communicates them to Saskatchewan’s hospitals to adjust their automation protocols. This advance notification helps mitigate a system cost that cannot be measured.
3. Helped introduce 39 new commercially available products that meet patient safety objectives
By joining the collective voices of hospitals across the country, Saskatchewan health system partners helped accelerate the development of fit-for-purpose medications to facilitate appropriate and accurate dosing. These new products, such as lower strength medications in the actual dose required that suppliers have produced based on the specific needs of hospitals across the country, enhance patient safety and bring efficiency to the internal hospital supply chain.
Saskatchewan is committed to delivering on the next level of success for its citizens. This fall, representatives from the province participated in an event which brought together over 200 representatives from pharmaceutical companies and hospitals. This time, the challenge was: how do we strengthen the health of our Canadian drug supply chain and minimize drug shortages?
This is a complex, global problem, but the ideas discussed in this most recent collaboration have potential to help us move forward on this issue.
To view a video highlighting the successes of this campaign, please visit: Transforming Together: Our Collective Successes
For more information, please contact:
Christine Donaldson
Vice President, Pharmacy, HealthPRO
905-568-3478 ext. 243
About the Saskatchewan Health Authority
The Saskatchewan Health Authority is the largest organization in Saskatchewan, employing over 40,000 employees and physicians responsible for the delivery of high quality and timely health care for the entire province. For more information, please visit
About 3sHealth
3sHealth delivers innovative change and provides province-wide shared services to support Saskatchewan’s health system. Working together with our health system partners, we find innovative solutions to complex problems so that health care will be sustainable for future generations. We place patients and their families at the centre of all that we do, working with our partners to improve quality and ensure patient safety. 3sHealth provides payroll and scheduling, employee benefits, dictation and transcription, linen, provincial contracting, and transformational services to the Saskatchewan health system. For more information, please visit
About HealthPRO
HealthPRO is Canada’s group contracting provider for healthcare. HealthPRO puts decades of knowledge and the purchasing volumes of more than 1,300-member healthcare facilities across Canada to work. Members count on HealthPRO to reduce the cost of high-quality products and services they use, improve patient safety, help maintain assurance of supply and pursue new ideas and innovations. The outcome is unprecedented buying power and market influence for Canadian healthcare facilities. For more information, please visit


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