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Archive Staff & Patient Safety 2018

Advances in Medication Management

Technology can increase drug security and safety.

Christina Michalek

Christina Michalek, BSc, PharmD, RPh, FASHP


Pamela Bevelhymer, RN, BSN, CNOR
LOCK AND KEY Limit the number of staff members who can access stored medications and allow access based on legitimate need.

Take a hard look at how medications are managed in your facility. Is there a standardized way to ensure the correct drugs and the right doses are given? Are you properly labeling every syringe? Are you confident that controlled substances aren't being diverted? If you hesitated when considering your responses, read on to learn how smart storage solutions, prefilled syringes and barcode technology have the potential to keep drugs secure and your patients safe.

Accurate administration

Anesthesia providers who prepare and label syringes for a case are often the ones who administer the medications during surgery, meaning often there are no protocols or policies in place for an independent doublecheck to ensure the correct medication or dose is prepared and given. Errors are also caused by incomplete or non-standardized syringe labeling, which increases the risk of misidentifying drugs and dose strengths.

The variability of surgery can also contribute to medication mishaps. Some anesthesia providers fill syringes with more than the required dose with the intention of administering incremental amounts based on how the patient responds to each push. That practice increases the risk of giving an incorrect amount. The ability of anesthesia providers to react quickly to symptoms of adverse events caused by medications they administer might also contribute to an underreporting of medication errors. (If patient harm is adverted, did an error occur?)

Medication safety technology can greatly reduce the incidence of errors when integrated into an overall care approach. For example, automated dispensing anesthesia carts help ensure that providers have access to the correct drug for administration. Additionally, point-of-use barcode scanners provide audio and visual confirmation of scanned drugs, automatically generate accurate and legible labels you can affix to syringes, and track the medications used during cases.

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