A new report ‘SAFE: Banishing Medication Errors in Primary Care (Safeguarding Against Frontline Errors)’ has been launched by Omnicell UK & Ireland, the world-leading provider of automated healthcare and medication adherence solutions. The report aims to promote best practice standards of care for the management of medication across primary care settings and is part of an ongoing campaign to improve patient safety within healthcare.
Earlier this year, the Department of Health found that in England 237 million mistakes occur at some point in the medication process. Out of the 237 million medication errors, it is estimated that 38.3% occur within a primary care setting. Primary care adverse drug reactions cause an estimated 627 deaths per year and cost the NHS a staggering £83.7million a year in unnecessary hospital admissions.
Community pharmacy is under tremendous pressure to deliver more services for less money, following NHS funding cuts of £200 million. Yet last year in the wake of these cuts, it was estimated that more than 1 billion prescriptions were dispensed. These prescriptions have become more complex as the UK population ages. With ever-increasing pressures on demand, time and resources, as well as funding cuts resulting in staff hours being reduced or lost, the risk of medication errors in primary care rises.
The SAFE report, authored by a leading pharmaceutical expert, found that within primary care the introduction of technology helps to dramatically reduce the risk of medication errors, providing a valuable safety net for staff and patients. Technology also frees up valuable pharmacy time, which can be redirected back into face-to-face, over the counter patient care.
Community pharmacies can help to prevent medication errors by installing robotic systems that sort and dispense medication and automated systems which accurately fill and check medication adherence packs. Investing in and installing this technology means that experienced staff no longer spend as much time on operational tasks like restocking, stock rotation and filling medication adherence packaging. It also means that pharmacies have the opportunity to focus on other valuable revenue streams, such as medicine usage reviews and patient group directives.
While there has been a growth in the use of robotic dispensing systems in hospital pharmacies, the same cannot be said for community pharmacy. However, as smaller and more efficient robots come to market there is now the opportunity to change this. Evidence exists to show that pharmacy robots can reduce errors while improving the speed and efficiency of the dispensing process. Robots have the potential to handle high volumes of dispensing in community pharmacies or ‘hubs’ and release pharmacy staff to develop and deliver patient-centred services.
As well as robotic dispensing systems, technology now exists to safely automate the process for filling medication adherence packaging. While adherence cards are an important tool for ensuring patients with complex medication regimes take the right dose of the right drug at the right time, it is a time-consuming process for many pharmacies. Automating filling of these packs frees up that staff time and also significantly reduces the risk of human error.
It’s now more important than ever for pharmacies to modernise and consider automation to drive patient safety, help reduce costs and spend more time with patients. Most community pharmacies are using IT to some extent, but a systematic approach is needed for the widespread introduction of automation to help overcome funding pressures and incidences of medication errors. As pharmacies are being expected to deliver more for less, technology may well be the only solution.
Paul O’Hanlon, Managing Director at Omnicell UK & Ireland, comments: “The Department of Health study, published earlier this year, has brought medication errors to the forefront of people’s attention. Worryingly, the report discovered that almost three quarters of the errors classed as ‘clinically significant’ occur in primary care with more than half of these happening in the dispensing and monitoring process. Around half the population in England take at least one medicine and more than half of those aged 85 years or over take at least five. That’s why it is imperative that safety measures are put in place to ensure that patients are taking the right dose of the right medicine at the right time. Within pharmacy, staff are working really hard to protect patient safety, but they are more stretched now than ever before. We have worked with community pharmacies who have embraced new technology to improve patient safety. We hope our latest report which is the 4th and last in the series, together with our Standard of Care Brochure, will encourage more pharmacies to invest in technology which can reduce medication errors and free up staff so they can spend more time with patients.
This year, Omnicell is implementing a SAFE campaign amongst key opinion leaders within care homes, secondary care and pharmacies in order to raise awareness of the impact of medication errors. The campaign aims to drive real change and awareness of the role that technology can play in tackling the problem. You can support the campaign with the hashtag #BanishMedErrors. For more information visit www.omnicell.co.uk