A recent article in the Seattle Times reported on the legal woes of Western State Psychiatric Hospital, as they suffer the fallout from multiple reports of medication errors. It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that an issuance of an “immediate jeopardy” notice by state regulators was issued. Now they are facing, not only legal action, but the potential loss of additional funding. Not to mention, of course, the black mark on their organization; a real tragedy for the state’s largest psychiatric hospital.
If you operate a long-term care community you may be thinking that it won’t happen to you. But the unfortunate truth is that, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), more than 1.5 million Americans are injured each year due to medication errors. And a good portion of that can be found in long-term care. A study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Resources, found that 1 in 3 nursing care patients suffered a medication error, infection or some other type of harm related to their treatment. And 59% of these incidents were preventable!
Why, in 2016, are we still dealing with so many medication errors?
Basically the answer to that question lies with the fact that too many long-term care operators are still doing things the way they always have; manually. So here we are in 2016, with a set of procedures that are still many decades old. And the errors continue, just as they always have. Here are the most common ones:
- Dose omission or under-dose
- Incorrect strength of medication
- Use of expired medications
- Mismatching medications to wrong patient
- Medication “borrowing” from one patient to another
- Wrong med passing route
The solution? It’s not putting more pressure on your staff!
Many assisted living and skilled nursing home operators are attempting to address these problems by simply doubling down on internal (mostly manual) resources. But that’s not a solution. Assigning responsibility to an already overworked nursing team can backfire, causing even more errors, usually due to stress and fatigue.
How can technology help?
That’s a good question, and one that many industry professionals and researchers are asking. Studies have long been calling for nursing homes and hospitals to use technology to gain greater accuracy and to automate tedious manual medication management and dispensation.
And there is technology to do this; from simple computerized prescription entry programs to robust, scalable solutions such as Talyst’s InSite System, which puts a dispensing unit within the care facility and automates all processes — managing, packaging, labeling and delivering “just-in-time” oral solid medication doses. How does it help reduce medication errors? Here are a few ways:
- Ensures an exact dose every time
- Bar coded with patient ID
- No pill splitting or crushing
- No outdated medications
- Reduces nursing staff fatigue and stress
It’s time to take control.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health has been urging operators to use technology to reduce medication errors as far back as 2009, stating in a report on the subject: “Prevention of medication errors has therefore become a high priority worldwide. There is mounting evidence that systems that use information technology (IT), such as computerized physician order entry, automated dispensing cabinets, bedside bar-coded medication administration, and electronic medication reconciliation, are key components of strategies to prevent medication errors. IT systems have also been reported to have the potential to save up to $88 billion over 10 years in costs in the USA, with increasing adoption.”
For those operators who are still conducting business as usual, it is time to get serious about using technology to improve accuracy, streamline the meds passing process and stem the tide of medication errors. When to start? How about before a tragedy and legal nightmare forces you to?