Sara Dalmasso is General Manager and Vice President at Omnicell International. Here she reflects how automating the medication management process can support hospitals during the COVID-19 second wave.
We are seeing a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases with rapidly rising hospital admissions across the whole of Europe. Governments are taking drastic action to try and prevent the spread of the virus with many countries recently implementing new lockdown measures to protect patients and healthcare systems, many of which are already over stretched. This latest increase in admissions is placing an additional burden on hospitals as they enter a traditionally busy winter period.
As cases surge, its crucial healthcare suppliers do all we can to support front line staff and patients in this latest battle against the virus. Now more than ever people need to come together and work in partnership to protect our valued healthcare services.
One of the ways we know we can support at Omnicell is to provide hospitals with real time visibility of stock levels across the hospital so staff can quickly establish what medication needs to be ordered at any time. Using automated medication management solutions negates the need for manual stock checks by pharmacy or nursing staff which means their time can be better spent on face to face clinical care.
Following the first wave of COVID-19 we know from our hospital customer feedback how the virus brought about:
- An increased critical need for specific medications to be readily available
- A change in the demand for the range and type of medications driven by COVID-19
- Risks from medication shortages due to increased demand
- An increased need for security and accountability around all highly demanded medications
- The need to prevent cross contamination during the medication management process
- A required adjustment to processes to reduce staff exposure and risk as well as the overuse of PPE.
Many hospitals took advantage of our Rapid Response initiative which saw Omnicell remove the barriers to ordering, shipping and installation of its XT Automated Dispensing Solutions, allowing hospitals to ‘scale-up’ additional medication management needs as soon as required. As hospitals mobilized to meet the needs of this new emergency, as their healthcare technology and service partner we did the same with pre-configured cabinets available on site in as little as 14 days with the option to remote install.
It is important that we share best practice approaches during these challenging times so healthcare settings can implement new ways of working which will support both staff and the patients they are caring for in this difficult climate. Here are five ways automating the medication management process can help hospitals during the Covid-19 second wave.
Automated inventory management process
Track real time stock levels of critical medications across the whole hospital including identification and focused tracking of highly needed COVID-19 specific medications across all high-risk areas. By automating your process, you can identify at an early stage increases in key COVID-19 medicines and this can be highlighted to pharmacy to ensure they have ample time to react before the demand hits them. In addition, this approach automatically identifies items that need to be re-ordered without staff exposure to high risk areas. The data intelligence from the Omnicell COVID-19 forecast report allows hospitals to predict demand and prevent unnecessary stock-outs through reorder and critical low alerts based on real time inventory.
Electronic messaging around inventory and patient transactions for medication usage allows for remote monitoring and decreases the need for access to “hot areas” in terms of a physical presence. This reduces the risk of staff exposure and the requirement to provide valuable stocks of PPE to support functions. Equally Omnicell’s controlled management process removes the need for paper-based recording systems, reducing the risk of cross-contamination.
Ability to respond rapidly for new COVID-19 management wards
The automation means you can define in advance required standard stock levels for COVID-19 specific treatment areas. You can even have established automated dispensing cabinets with defined COVID-19 specific stock set up and quarantined ready to rapidly roll into new areas as and when needed. Such solutions provide a secure and accountable medication management system in high demand areas. There is the option to provide a mix of pharmacy and supply items in one single system allowing for a single source for all inventory which can be ready to be moved to overflow areas as required.
Improved Infection Control
Required medication kept in a closed cabinet environment reduces exposure to the virus of all stocked items. Locking lid bins reduce the risk of exposure further as they only allow access to the medication required. The easy one touch log-in is available through use of Bio-ID so no need to hand keys between staff. There is also the option to use a password as alternative to Bio-ID. Detailed cleaning and disinfection details are available for Omnicell cabinets.
You can use the electronic reorder function to identify restock needs even in high demand areas. There is the potential to adjust stock levels in high risk areas so exposure through restocking frequency can be reduced. As data can be seen remotely there is a reduced need for pharmacy staff to be in high risk COVID-19 areas specifically for stock management and monitoring purposes.
Freeing staff time for clinical care
By automating your medication management process, you free up nursing time for clinical care which is critically important during this pandemic. Stock counts can be done remotely by pharmacy staff as opposed to nurses on the front line. Equally better visibility and management of stock means having the right medicine in the right location at the right time, so nurses spend less time looking for medication or drug cupboard keys and more time caring for patients.
The COVID-19 virus has demonstrated how crucial it is for industry experts to work hand in hand with healthcare organizations to automate administrative process and improve efficiencies. This will ensure that front line staff are spending their time on clinical duties and patient care rather than logistical process. When we unite and work together in this way, we can transform the way we deliver healthcare to patients, even in the most difficult circumstances.