Standardizing the interpretation of “stat”, “emergent”, “urgent”, and “now” medication orders can improve patient safety. However, the effect of implementing standardized definitions on the turnaround time for medication orders in hospital pharmacy dispensaries has not been studied.
To examine the effects of using formal definitions for “stat”, “emergent”, “urgent”, and “now” on turnaround time for medication orders within a pharmacy dispensary.
Definitions for “stat”, “emergent”, “urgent”, and “now” orders, as well as for “turnaround time”, were developed from the formal literature and the grey literature. The definitions were implemented by educating all pharmacy staff. Retrospective audits of turnaround time were conducted at baseline (for all orders over a 1-month period) and after implementation of the definitions (for a total of 28 days over a 3-month period). Health records and medication orders were used to calculate time from prescribing to administration (total turnaround time) and time from prescribing to departure from the dispensary (dispensary turnaround time). Differences between total and dispensary turnaround times were compared with nonparametric statistics.
During the baseline audit period, 84 (1.1%) of 7787 orders were identified as “stat”, “emergent”, “urgent”, or “now”. After implementation of the formal definitions, 142 (2.6%) of 5365 orders were identified by one of these terms. The percentage of orders meeting the target dispensary turnaround time of less than 15 min was at least 90% both at baseline (76/84 [90%]) and after implementation (129/142 [91%]) (p = 0.80). Median dispensary turnaround time for stat and emergent medication orders combined (10 versus 9 min, p = 0.27) and for urgent and now medication orders combined (10 versus 12 min, p = 0.09) did not change after implementation of formal definitions. Similarly, median total turnaround time did not change for stat and emergent medication orders combined (30 versus 45 min, p = 0.32), but it increased for urgent and now orders combined (35 versus 45 min, p = 0.041).
Implementing standardized definitions for “stat”, “emergent”, “urgent”, and “now” had no significant effect on dispensary turnaround time. However, the majority of orders with these designations met the expected target for dispensary turnaround time. Further interventions aimed at other health care professionals may be needed to reduce total turnaround time. This research supports the concept of interdisciplinary interventions for reducing total turnaround time.