Patient Safety Awareness Week is celebrated every March and encourages individuals and organizations to learn more about healthcare safety. It advances meaningful discussions around preventing patient harm resulting from interactions with the healthcare system.

You may be wondering why a branding company is talking about patient safety. The answer to that lies in that a medicinal product’s design, package, name, and container label can have an enormous impact on the whether the product will be prone to error when introduced into the complex healthcare system.

Medication safety is a subset of patient safety, and a medication error is defined as:

“…any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the healthcare professional, patient, or consumer. Such events may be related to professional practice, healthcare products, procedures, and systems, including prescribing, order communication, product labeling, packaging, and nomenclature, compounding, dispensing, distribution, administration, education, monitoring, and use.”

From this definition, we see that medication errors have myriad causes, many of which are practice related and beyond the control of the company that is marketing the product. Let’s take a look at a few examples of how patient safety can be incorporated into branding:

Example 1: What are the first few letters of the drug name and what other drug names contain the same letter strings? Could this be a cause of confusion?

A common cause of product selection errors comes from typing the first few letters of the drug name into an electronic prescribing system. A “real life” example of this happened a few years ago and led to a patient’s death. The intended “Versed” was confused with “vecuronium” by typing “VE” into the system and choosing the wrong drug from the order entry screen.

Example 2: What colors are being used on the container label? Can products or strengths be confused?

Look-alike similarity leading to a medication error can occur when trade dress is applied consistently across many products in a line. Trade dress similarities can be compounded by similar looking numbers (e.g., 6 and 8, 3 and 8) and the typeface used to express them, potentially leading to error.

These are just a few examples of how patient safety, medication error prevention, and branding intersect. Addison Whitney has the experience to navigate the clinical and regulatory implications of branding, while incorporating unparalleled creativity.