Preventing Adverse Drug Events

Clinical Care, Emergency Systems, Prevention

Innovation Leader


Adverse drug events, the unintended and harmful consequences of medication use, cause over 300,000 ED visits in BC annually. Of these, 70% are preventable. Patients with adverse drug events spend more days in acute care hospitals, have more frequent outpatient healthcare encounters, and incur double the health care cost compared with other patients. Presently, 40% of adverse drug events are misdiagnosed in ED’s, leading to treatment delays and worse patient outcomes. Our vision is to improve the health of British Columbians by ensuring timely recognition and optimal management of adverse drug events in emergency departments and preventing recurrent events. We will accomplish this by developing, evaluating and implementing best practices locally, provincially and nationally. We will improve access to acute care beds by reducing health services utilization and costs associated with preventable adverse events.

Current Activities

  • Ongoing study to describe contributing factors and preventability of adverse drug events
  • Developed and submitted business case to MoH for changes to PharmaNet database that will enable implementation of ActionADE
  • Recruitment of patient partners in progress  
  • Planning pilot implementation of ActionADE

Short-Term Goals

  • Validate and implement a prospective screening tool in EDs provincially to improve the recognition, treatment, and documentation of adverse drug events in this practice setting
  • Develop methods to document adverse drug events within electronic health records to:
    • Enable electronic documentation of adverse drug events as well as their communication between care providers (e.g. between physicians, pharmacists, and nurses) and across healthcare sectors (e.g. between hospitals, community-based providers, and outpatient pharmacies) to improve patient care and reduce recurrent adverse drug events
  • Create a provincial electronic platform to document adverse drug events and serve as the basis for planned projects in quality improvement, pharmacosurveillance, and pharmacoepidemiology

Long-Term Goals

We plan to develop the first provincial adverse drug event surveillance system to:

  • Improve patient safety by monitoring adverse drug event trends
  • Provide data to prioritize, develop and evaluate quality improvement projects for improved care delivery
  • Provide robust data for comparative drug safety and effectiveness research to support national drug licensing and provincial drug-coverage decisions
  • Expand into research in pharmacoepidemiology
  • Evaluate high-priority medications based on queries developed by the Ministry of Health and the Drug Safety and Effectiveness Research Network