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Guidelines for Timely Administration of Scheduled Medications (Acute)

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) developed these Acute Care Guidelines for Timely Administration of Scheduled Medications after conducting an extensive survey in late-2010 involving almost 18,000 nurses regarding the requirement in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Conditions of Participation Interpretive Guidelines to administer medications within 30 minutes before or after the scheduled time. The nurses who responded to the survey made it clear that changes to drug delivery methods and gradual increases in the complexity of care, number of prescribed medications per patient, and number of patients assigned to each nurse have made the long-standing CMS “30-minute rule” error prone.

Many nurses reported feeling great pressure to take shortcuts to comply with the rule, which have led to errors, some harmful. While delays in administering certain time-sensitive medications can also result in harm, a one-size-fits-all, inflexible requirement to administer all scheduled medications within 30 minutes of the scheduled time is a precarious mandate given that relatively few medications truly require exact timing of doses. 

CMS staff have requested a copy of the final guidelines, and based on our conversations with them, we are optimistic that positive changes will be made to the current “30-minute rule.” For now, hospitals will still be held accountable for the “30-minute rule” in the CMS Interpretive Guidelines. However, given widespread support for these more reasonable and clinically appropriate guidelines, we hope CMS surveyors will allow hospitals to justify their carefully considered policies and procedures regarding timely medication administration using these guidelines to anchor the process.

Download the Guidelines

How to cite: Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP). ISMP Acute Care Guidelines for Timely Administration of Scheduled Medications. ISMP; 2011. 



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