Patient prioritization for pharmaceutical care in hospital: A systematic review of assessment tools

Meshal Alshakrah, Douglas Steinke, Penny Lewis

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Clinical pharmacy services improve patient safety, outcomes, and care quality; however, UK clinical pharmacy services face limited resources, insufficient capacity, and patients who present with increasingly complex medication regimes and morbidities. These indicate a need for the prioritization of pharmacy services. Several prioritization tools have been developed; however, there has been no comprehensive review of such tools to date.


A systematic review was conducted to provide a structured overview and description of existing assessment tools with a focus on study quality, themes, tool validity, risk factors, and high-risk drug classes.


Systematic searches for English-language publications (from 1990 to September 2017) were conducted in Embase, Medline, Scopus, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, and Web of Science. Papers in the inpatient setting and in which the tool users were pharmacists or pharmacy technicians were included. Data on each study (e.g. aim and design) and the structure of tools (e.g. risk factors) from each included study were extracted by 2 independent reviewers. A descriptive analysis was conducted to summarize these tools along with a thematic analysis of study findings. The quality of each paper was assessed using the Hawker method.


Nineteen studies involving 17 risk assessment tools were included. Most tools were developed in Europe (76.5%) and published in the last 5 years (82%). Most tools (88%) were designed to identify patients at greatest risk of adverse drug reactions, adverse drug events, or medication errors and to guide appropriate pharmaceutical care. Ten out of 17 tools (59%) were validated. None showed a measurable impact on prescription errors or adverse drug events. Keys themes identified from the studies were the positive impact of risk assessment tools on both patient care and provision of pharmacy services as well as the limitations of risk assessment tools.


Current assessment tools are heterogeneous in their content, targeting diverse patient groups and clinical settings making generalization difficult. However, an underlying theme of all studies was that tools appear to achieve their aim in directing pharmaceutical care to where it is needed most which might provide reassurance and incentive for greater adoption and development of tools across clinical pharmacy services. However, further research is required to measure objectively the impact of tools on patient outcomes and on workforce efficiency so that comparisons can be made between tools.
Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Early online date20 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


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