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Online drug safety alerts

American physicians are set to benefit from an online system for the dissemination of drug safety alerts developed through a three-year collaborative effort
American physicians are set to benefit from an online system for the dissemination of drug safety alerts developed through a three-year collaborative effort.

The new system called the Health Care Notification Network (HCNN) was launched on March 25 to widespread approval from the US medical, pharmaceutical and insurance community.

Physicians until now had to rely on what had been branded an out-of-date, decades-old paper system that saw alerts dispatched via the US mail delivery service.

The inception of the HCNN allows for immediate communication with physicians and healthcare workers in the event of a public health emergency or bio-terror incidents/threats.

Dr Nancy Dickey, former president of the American Medical Association (AMA) and chair of the iHealth Alliance, said: "Relying on paper-based US mail and weeks of delay to deliver time-urgent patient safety alerts to doctors in 2008 is indefensible and unsafe."

"We are finally moving from the paper age into the internet age in terms of patient safety alerts," she added.

The HCNN was developed through a collaboration that came under the umbrella of the not-for-profit organisation the iHealth Alliance.

Its aim is to improve patient safety by facilitating the immediate and efficacious delivery of important drug and health safety alerts. The HCNN is a free service for all licensed US physicians.

Dr David Troxel, medical director for The Doctors Company, America's largest physician-owned liability carrier, said: "The majority of US liability carriers are asking their insured physicians to enrol today in the HCNN because delivering product recalls and warnings immediately online has the potential to directly improve patient safety and reduce malpractice claims."

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been credited by the iHealth Alliance for the creation of the HCNN and for its active encouragement for using online networks to increase the communication of patient safety information.

According to the findings of recent surveys, 90 per cent of practising physicians want drug safety alerts dispatched immediately online with over half of them wanting the same alerts sent to office staff.

A major problem with paper-based alerts is that one or more so-called gatekeepers sometimes screen letters to healthcare providers.

Dr Janet Woodcock, the recently appointed director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said: "Gatekeepers often discard these important paper-based alerts as ëjunk mail'."

"We applaud the efforts of Dr Dickey and her board to improve the delivery of important patient safety alerts to US physicians." she added.

28th March 2008

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