Medicines safety

How effective is digital communication within the Medication Safety Officer network?

The work described here was presented at the Pharmacy Together 2019 conference.

The Medication Safety Officer (MSO) role was created following a Patient Safety Alert, with an action to network through regular online webinar meetings and an online forum. Our aim was to assess the effectiveness of digital platforms in facilitating interaction and communication by the MSO network.

The objectives were to establish the proportion of MSOs who interact through monthly webinars and online forum and identify barriers and facilitators for engaging digitally within the MSO network. To do this, we used an online survey and semi-structured interviews. 

The online survey was disseminated through the official mailing list for all 400 MSOs registered with the Central Alerting System in December 2018. Responses were anonymous unless respondents volunteered their contact details in the survey, which was designed to recruit participants for a follow up semi-structured telephone interview to gain more insight. Semi-structured interviews were conducted by telephone, transcribed and transcripts sent to the interviewees for validation of responses. 

A total of 84 MSOs responded to the survey (equating to a 21 percent response rate) and ten individuals participated in the semi-structured interviews. The majority of the respondents were pharmacists (94 percent), and mainly from NHS Trust large healthcare providers (52 percent).

Digital communications through webinars and online forums can facilitate networking

We found that around three-quarters of MSOs joined the monthly webinars and considered the frequency appropriate. Just over half of respondents believed the webinar was useful for networking via the chat function. However, interview data highlighted that with the monthly frequency, the chat function was considered more suitable for non-urgent medication safety issues. Ten survey respondents reported they did not attend the webinars, some due to technical difficulties and others because of lack of time within their role.

The online forum was used less frequently, with a third of the respondents reporting that they had never used it and only three having used it more than once a month. Reasons included difficulty in gaining access due to security restrictions, usability and lack of responsiveness to queries.  

Approximately half of the MSOs reported having face to face meetings with other MSOs in their geographical area, which was beneficial in discussing non-urgent queries. Others had a preference to email or telephone a colleague previously known to them, for timely medication safety advice.

The main limitation of this work was the low response rate that may not be fully representative. Those who engage with the service are also more likely to engage with the survey. For further studies, unengaged individuals could be identified via the MHRA and approached.

Digital communications through webinars and online forums can facilitate networking but requires a robust information technology infrastructure that can be accessed without difficulty. User friendly platforms can help the MSO network achieve critical mass, greater interaction, and allow access to timely information

This work was presented as a poster at the Pharmacy Together 2019 conference, organised by UKCPA and Pharmacy Management.

Additional authors:

Nicola Wake, NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service, London; Yogini Jani, UCLH Centre for Medicines Optimisation Research and Education, London

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the UKCPA or its members. We encourage readers to follow links and references to primary research papers and guidance.

Competing interest statement: 

The author declares: no support from any organisation for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.


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