B.C. researchers develop new software to reduce adverse drug events

Jun 29, 2021

Researchers at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia have developed new software to decrease the risk of adverse drug events (ADEs). These harmful and unintended consequences of medication contribute to almost two million emergency department visits annually in Canada.

The new software is called ActionADE and was designed to document ADEs and communicate with pharmacies to help prevent dispensing drugs that have been previously demonstrated to result in patient harm.

So far, ActionADE has been implemented in nine hospitals across B.C. with additional sites to come. The software was developed as part of the research project led by SFU professor Dr. Ellen Balka and UBC professor Dr. Corinne Hohl at Vancouver General Hospital’s Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluation Studies.

Dr. Hohl has spent almost ten years researching the effects of ADEs, forming a collaboration with Dr. Balka in 2012 to improve the process of information sharing in B.C.’s health care system.

ADEs have been linked to one in nine adult visits to the emergency department in B.C., and associated with 240,000 emergency department visits every year. According to researchers, at least 33% of preventable adverse drug events requiring visiting a hospital are repeat events that could be prevented.

“Adverse drug events are being documented to a much greater degree than they were prior to the introduction of the software and if you don’t document them, then you can’t prevent the ones that are preventable because you don’t know that they’ve occurred,” said Dr. Balka.

While the recent implementation of the federal Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act — also referred to as Vanessa’s Law — mandates serious adverse drug reaction reporting, according to researchers, less than 5% of these reactions are being reported.

Notably, ActionADE is compatible with multiple health authorities’ software systems and databases. In addition, it has been integrated with PharmaNet, the network that connects all B.C. pharmacies to a central data system and includes information about all dispensed prescriptions. The goal of the research is to have this system implemented across Canada.

“The whole reason that we wanted the community pharmacies to receive the information is because that’s the last opportunity we have to stop a drug that’s previously caused harm to get into the hands, unknowingly of a patient,” said Dr. Balka.

“Our hope in developing it was that it will be available not only throughout British Columbia, but throughout Canada. It’s been designed in a manner which makes it very easy to integrate with existing software systems and electronic patient record systems both in and outside of hospitals,” she added.

The B.C. researchers will run the project for another 18 months and will soon begin the succession planning with hopes of running ActionADE nationwide.