Research Report 2018

Lisa McCarthy, PharmD | Scientist and Pharmacist

Improving medication safety

Transitions of care and the use of multiple medications are two of the largest factors for medication-related harm. Within the next five years, the World Health Organization’s global safety challenge goal is to reduce these harms by 50 per cent. To help reach this goal, Lisa McCarthy, PharmD, is developing innovative care models to improve medication safety in ambulatory settings and optimize care at the individual, organizational and health system levels. Since the majority of prescriptions originate in ambulatory care settings (out-patient), creating and evaluating models of safe and effective medication use are essential for the safety and sustainability of our health system. 

Transitions between community and acute care settings are high-risk periods for medication errors as a result of communication failures or underlying risk factors such as omitted medications and unreported use of supplements. McCarthy’s research has found gaps in the use of community pharmacists, who are well situated to support patients during transitions of care but are not routinely included in communications between hospital and other primary care providers. She is currently supervising research that is focused on understanding the factors that influence community pharmacists’ approaches to deprescribing, the planned and supervised process of dose reduction or stopping of medication that might be causing harm or that may no longer be of benefit. 

McCarthy is also a founding member of an internationally-renowned research team studying problematic polypharmacy, which happens when a patient takes more medications than clinically indicated. This research team developed methods that have led to the creation of five medication class-focused deprescribing clinical practice guidelines. McCarthy is now collaborating on several studies to bring these guidelines to the forefront of clinical practice using practitioner and patient-focused implementation strategies. These findings and the development of support tools will help prescribers in the community to improve their prescribing practices and reduce the prevalence of prescribing cascades in high-risk populations.