According to PharmacyTimes.com, “Among health care providers, it is estimated that 15% of pharmacists, 10% of nurses, and 8% of physicians are challenged with alcohol and/or drug dependency.” DrugTopics.com reports that there are 287,420 pharmacists in the United States. This means that over 43,000 of these medical professionals could be substance abusers. Think about the risk this poses to hospitals and health system pharmacies.
The medication diversion issue doesn’t just translate into the wrong drugs getting into the wrong hands. It also means that patients in dire need of these medications might not receive them when they are needed. This can lead to patient safety issues. What’s more, the loss of these drugs also adds to hospitals’ already ballooning drug budgets, the single biggest hospital expenditure each year.
Many of today’s medical facilities rely on 30-year old bar code technology to “track” and “trace” their controlled substances – to stem the flow of diversion events. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of the technology, this is a huge failure point and leaves these institutions open to repeat and rampant diversion events. You see, bar code technology requires line-of-site, manual scanning of drugs at hand-off points – from the pharmacist to the kit and tray, from the crash cart to the physician, from the anesthesia cart to the anesthesiologist, and so on. In a world where seconds equal lives, manual scanning isn’t always performed, or if it is, errors can occur. When this happens, controlled substances (like opioids) can fall out of the chain of custody – and this is where diversion occurs.
The answer to this burgeoning epidemic is four simple letters: RFID (radio frequency identification). RFID isn’t merely bar code technology on steroids. RFID technology is revolutionizing and overhauling the drug inventory management lifecycle altogether by instituting automated scanning (once drugs are removed from a kit and tray or medication dispensing cabinet, for example), data centralization and smart alerts. This way, nurses, pharmacists and anesthesiologists don’t need to worry about scanning bar codes, and instead, can work at the top of their license.
Once affixed to your controlled substance vials and syringes, RFID tags enable facilities to scan hundreds of drugs simultaneously in seconds, offering visibility of drug use (and misuse) across the supply chain. Since no manual scanning or line of sight is required, human error is all but eliminated.
RFID tags automatically capture data associated with the movement or use of a controlled substance. Furthermore, this rich data is centralized and can be turned into actionable intelligence. For instance, your pharmacy-in-chief (or other hospital official) can receive automatic text alerts when a medication falls out of the chain of custody. In this manner, diversion remediation can occur instantly before the problem compounds further.
Pharmacy Technology Report states that, “Hospitals and vendors across the country are integrating RFID into pharmacy inventory management processes with good results.”
Now is the time to start exploring whether RFID is right for your medical facility in order to stop future diversion events from occurring and putting your patients, staff and hospital at risk.