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National drive to reduce medication errors in care homes

Omnicell is calling for care homes in the UK to look again at the way they administer medication to residents and patients. It’s astounding to think that some homes are still relying on original pack dispensing alone to administer complex medication regimens to dozens of residents. It’s an unsafe and unnecessary practice that the industry needs to work together to tackle.

A study released this July by University College London School of Pharmacy1, looked into medication administration errors between original medication packaging and multi-compartment compliance aids in care homes. Results showed that 178 errors were identified from 2493 opportunities for error. As you would expect, more medication administration errors were made when using original medication packaging compared to multi-compartment compliance aids (9.3% and 3.1% respectively).

It’s great to see that multi-compartment compliance aids, like SureMed by Omnicell, can help to improve patient safety in a care home environment and we’d like to think that in most cases this is standard practice. However, there is now an even safer way to administer medication to these patients and it’s one that we are pleased to see care homes starting to turn to.

Following the successful launch of Omnicell eMAR in autumn last year, Omnicell is now working with 32 pharmacies servicing more than 49 care homes.  A further 9 care homes will have Omnicell eMAR implemented by the end of October 2017. Omnicell eMAR is proven to help care homes reduce the risk of medication errors and drives-up patient safety standards.

This recent research highlights the importance of introducing an effective automated management system to tackle the widespread issue of medication errors. The Omnicell eMAR system automates the entire medication management and administration process making it safe, simple and compliant for everyone involved. It gathers information, provides prompts and accurate instructions for staff and gives managers real time medication administration data at the touch of a button, so they can be sure that the right dose has been administered, at the right time, to the right resident. By investing in automation like Omnicell eMAR, care homes can help tackle the serious issue of effective medication management which has been an ongoing problem for a number of years. Reports show that almost 70%2 of residents have experienced at least one error in their medication regime. Residents take an average of 7.2 medicines per day3, and with each additional medication comes the increased risk of errors in prescribing, monitoring, dispensing and administering.  Poor medication adherence not only results in compromised quality of life for patients but in some cases, it causes death of those most vulnerable.

While it’s great to see that some Pharmacies and Care Homes have started to embrace automation as a way of improving patient safety, we are now calling for other care homes to review their practices and do the same in the light of this new research.

Rishi Bhatia, owner of Scorah Pharmacy, comments; “In this day and age no care home should be relying on original pack dispensing alone to administer medication. It leaves too much room for error which could result in potential harm to patients. For many years in the UK, MDS trays have been the answer and they have worked well. However, with the recent emergence of eMAR systems there is now an even safer and more efficient way to administer medication within care home settings. All the homes I supply now administer medication using Omnicell eMAR. This means original dispensing packs can still be used, but with the added advantage of patient specific barcodes and a system that provides prompts and instructions for staff right down to an individual patient level. Not only does this provide a valuable safety net for healthcare professionals, but it also frees up time for the pharmacy and care home team, which can be redirected to patient care.”

The system allows each individual medication to be identified through a barcode applied within the pharmacy, which can then be tracked at all stages from check-in at the care home to administration to the resident – it also ensures that all unused items are disposed of, or returned, to the pharmacy. Omnicell eMAR uses on-screen photographic identification and provides an important medical history for each patient including a simple alert and verification system to minimise the risk of medication administration errors.

Julie Spencer, Head of Care at Avery Group Care Homes, uses the system in two of their specialist dementia homes; ““Prior to using Omnicell eMAR the checking in of medication would take 5 hours per floor, totalling 15 hours of staff time per month for 3 floors. Since we have introduced the system this has been reduced significantly to 2 hours per floor which is now only 6 hours per month. This reduction of 60%, means our staff can spend more time providing face-to-face patient care. Our staff have really embraced the new system and we have had multiple reports detailing just how easy it is to use. Our previous systems always meant there was a risk of human error, but since we’ve introduced Omnicell eMAR the risk of this has been significantly reduced and our residents’ safety has increased.”

You can find out more about Omnicell eMAR at this year’s Pharmacy Show at Birmingham NEC on October 8-9 by visiting Omnicell at stand PD10 for a free demonstration.

Authored by Paul O’Hanlon, Manging Director of Omnicell UK&I

August LTD
Grahame Gardner
Mr Trax Curtain & Blind Solutions
Inspired Inspirations
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