With Better Meds, students learn to appreciate the technological advancement and improved patient safety

Better Meds is helping students learn about the future of prescribing and administering medication and simplifying their transition from university to clinical practice. While developing practical skills, students get a hands-on experience with the newest technology in healthcare and explore the patient safety aspects. 

We spoke to Dr Kate Shemilt, a pharmacist with experience in both clinical practice and academia. She is a senior lecturer in Clinical Pharmacy at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), focusing on patient safety and the useof electronic prescribing systems. LJMU is one of the oldest providers of pharmacy education in Europe, tracing its rootsback to 1849. The university became part of Better Meds Edu programme in 2020. 

How do you first introduce ePMA prescribing to the students at LJMU?  

We run the workshop where we introduce them to Better Meds and take them through paper prescription charts with a quick overview of the history of prescribing. They learn about the downsides of using prescription charts, how ePMA systems have moved forward and of all the benefits that have followed. Because it's their first introduction to the system, students are more likely to make mistakes that a new user would make. Our workshop introduces errors naturally, from the user's perspective. It's quite interesting to see students start to use this system and how quickly they improve once they get used to it. 

In what other ways have you been using Better Meds in the curriculum? 

We have also been using Better Meds in group courseworks, where we follow a case study of a patient and the ePMA system is used to present the patient's medications. During the coursework, the students are asked to make changes to the medications and justify those changes. The changes are then made by the tutor who's leading the group, and the students can observe the changes and discuss the management of the patient. 

What are your future plans with Better Meds? 

We have recently managed to set up simulation rooms for our third-year students and want to use Better Meds for simulation scenarios. We want to give students instant feedback: how they got on with the system, what they did well and what they could have done differently. The influential part for them is going to be not just using the ePMA system from a pharmacist perspective, but being the prescriber as well. Whilst they're undergrads, they're going to be more comfortable in making reviewing or prescribing mistakes in an environment where there aren't any serious repercussions compared to once they're out in practice. 

What do you think is the main take away for the students from using Better Meds for prescribing? 

I think it's about gaining an understanding of how ePMA systems work, its benefits and its downsides, as well as the importance of their clinical knowledge and their understanding of the electronic prescribing systems. They gain an appreciation of the advancement in technology and how it is improving patient safety. Using the system and making their own errors is really important for the students' learning process. We are definitely reinforcing that there could still be errors within the system and that as a pharmacist, you are responsible for the consequences. 

Why is it important to teach the students to manage medications by using an ePMA system? 

We need to get to the point where they're understanding and using a system that's being used in practice. Many times they are still given paper prescription forms to work with, when in reality, things are becoming more computerised. Currently, I think it is essential for them to be educated about paper prescriptions as well, but the question, whether they will need to know about those aspects in the future or if we should be moving forward, remains. 

You have a background in research about the usability and transition to electronic prescribing. How do you imagine Better Meds being used as a tool for research? 

My PhD was about the usability of ePMA systems and the transition from paper to electronic prescribing. When my colleague Mark Arnold came to me about your educational program, I thought it was brilliant. I am passionate about moving forward with research that's not just about getting data from the system but also about using the system and preparing the workforce for practice. Although there is a lack of funding in this research field and bringing the system into the university setting may be difficult, I have a lot of enthusiasm for this tool and can’t stress enough how much I want to move forward with it. 

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