Top 5 benefits of implementing an enterprise-wide medication management system

Feb. 28, 2017
Cynthia Burghard, Research Director, Value-Based Healthcare IT Transformation Strategies, IDC Health Insights, on behalf of BD CareFusion

Medication errors are a growing concern in healthcare environments. The numbers tell the story. Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to tackle this important issue. The Committee on Identifying and Preventing Medication Errors then conducted a comprehensive literature review on medication errors in United States hospitals. Five of the studies indicated that the rate of medication administration errors per 100 doses ranged from 2.4% to 11.1% in inpatient hospital settings.

While these numbers are alarming, there are approaches, based on a combination of technology and organizational change, that can help hospitals and health systems reduce deadly and costly medication errors. These changes are in line with other pressures and demands to move healthcare toward a more centralized, enterprise-level model.

Benefits of new approaches

Enterprise-level systems improve operational efficiency for a number of reasons, including centralized control of data as well as the standardization of policy, processes, and IT management. Implementing this kind of system offers a number of benefits:

  1. Improved patient safety: Enterprise medication management technology can improve patient safety by including features such as medication labeling with the name and dosage, tamper-proof dispensing cabinets with drawers that open automatically based on patient identification and orders, and duplicate name alerts. These features allow for enhanced security of controlled substances, and better overall transparency. Of particular benefit is the ability to keep data synchronized with electronic health records (EHRs), thereby further reducing errors.
  2. Formulary standardization: Medications represent the third-largest expense in hospitals, so it’s critical to tightly standardize, control, and manage the formulary to ensure that the highest quality of medications at the best cost are used in the right way. The benefits include significantly streamlined administration, reduced complexity, and more predictive cost management.
  3. Increased efficiency: Enterprise-level systems can improve operational efficiency, leveraging advanced analytics on which to base decisions and the transparency of comprehensive system-wide reporting. By contrast, department-level applications have a tendency to breed inconsistency and typically require more resources to manage the technology employed. According to research from BD CareFusion, hospitals have reported that moving to an enterprise-wide medication management system reduced time to complete tasks in several areas:
    • Device maintenance: 75%;
    • Formulary management: 50% to 74%;
    • User and password management: 75%;
    • Discrepancy checking: 25% to 49%; and
    • Out-date checking: 11% to 24%.
  4. Improved clinician satisfaction: Centralized medication management has the potential to free clinicians to practice at the top of their license, i.e., to do what they were originally trained to do. For example, instead of managing technology within the pharmacy, pharmacists can round with care teams to support discharge medication management, potentially helping reduce readmissions and improving outcomes.
  5. Closed loop supply chain: The shift toward an enterprise medication management system is driven by the need for supply chain management that manages drug availability and balances inventory with demand. Automated tracking from ordering to dispensing can drive efficiency, both improving medication availability and reducing costs. Integrated software systems can be used to correctly dispense medications, ultimately reducing errors, supporting medication safety, and impacting outcomes.

Addressing implementation challenges

Making enterprise medication management a reality will have its challenges. Healthcare organizations moving in this direction will need to make a commitment to evangelize its benefits and drive change management and process redesign within their enterprise. The following recommendations are offered:

  • Be prepared to address the concerns of department staff constructively and to “win them over” by showing how the cost of change is lower than the cost of staying the same.
  • Articulate the value received to help clinical teams minimize errors, reduce readmissions, and improve outcomes.
  • Negotiate what medication functions, permissions, and decisions will be conducted at the enterprise level and what responsibilities remain at the facility or department level.
  • Be inclusive in the planning process and respectful of all stakeholder and local site input.

In medication management, the primary concerns are patient and clinician safety and medication availability. Medication errors in hospitals can impede positive outcomes or, worse, cause death or seriously substandard care. The hospital consolidation and digital transformation taking place today will require an enterprise-level approach, and centralization of data—including medication management—is an important step. Standardized data and medication management provide the opportunity to develop best practices and identify areas of improvement across all functions in healthcare settings.

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