From Assessment to Action: Six Steps to Proactive Improvement Using Your Safety Self-Assessment

Two pharmacy professionals enter a safety self-assessment into a tablet device.


The Safety IQ program establishes a standardized practice for community pharmacies to proactively evaluate their prescription process in terms of patient safety. The primary tool for proactive evaluation is a safety self-assessment (SSA). An SSA is a quality improvement tool pharmacy teams use to assess the safety of current medication practices, proactively identify areas of potential risk, and support the development of improvement strategies or plans. Completing the SSA is a straightforward process that only takes a few hours, but improvement plans can be harder to develop and implement.

Let’s look at a simple six-step approach, adapted from ISMP Canada’s Medication Safety Self-Assessment (MSSA) for Quality Improvement How-To, to developing, implementing, and measuring the success of an improvement plan based on your pharmacy’s SSA findings.

6 Steps for Quality Improvement Using Your SSA

One: Complete an SSA

Complete your SSA with your pharmacy team. If your SSA provider makes it possible to compare your results with the combined data of other pharmacies, do a comparison to benchmark your progress against the average scores.

Two: Identify Areas for Growth

Identify your pharmacy’s lowest scoring items and highlight key areas for improvement.

Three: Brainstorm Safety Strategies

Brainstorm a variety of improvements for the low-scoring items on your SSA. Include members from across your team to come up with ideas and use existing resources like the Safety IQ Blog and Analysis resources, Smart Medication Safety Agendas, ISMP Canada’s Safety Bulletins, Briefs, and Snapshots, and the resources provided by your pharmacy’s reporting platform and/or SSA provider to develop your improvement plans.

Four: Create an Action Plan

For every improvement you want to make, document the timeframe for implementation, individual team member responsibilities, potential barriers and challenges, relevance to patient safety, and steps to monitor progress. Reporting platforms must provide you with a place to document improvement plans. Explore the offerings of your reporting platform and SSA providers to decide on your documentation approach.

Five: Prioritize Action Items

Prioritize action plans by ordering them according to your team’s goals.

Six: Implement Action Plans

Take action! Implement the plans you outlined to improve medication safety in your community pharmacy.

Remember that it is okay to start with just a few items for improvement until your team gets used to developing and implementing improvement plans. It is easy to feel overwhelmed if you decide to tackle every issue at once. Start small and move steadily toward a safer system.

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