Mar. 6, 2019 - Welcome to Part 3 of our blog series examining the drug shortage crisis. Part 1 covered the rapid increase in prices and the types of drugs most commonly affected. Part 2 delved deeper into the impact on hospital systems’ ability to manage drug spending and shortages. Here in Part 3, we’re looking closer at drug shortage impact on clinical staffing and the effect on patient care.
These posts are inspired by insights from the January 2019 report, “Recent Trends in Hospital Drug Spending and Manufacturer Shortages,” which was issued jointly with the American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
Time and Effort Burdens on Staff
According to the report, one in four hospitals had to cut staff to mitigate budget pressures caused by drug shortages and increases in drug prices. To make matters worse, drug shortages increase the burden on the staff who remain.
Health systems we speak with confirm their teams are spending eight to 10 hours per week on average managing drug shortages. We all know how valuable pharmacists’ time is and how that time could be immediately deployed to other high value activities like formulary management or medication reconciliation.
Managing drug shortages is labor intensive. Many different hospital staff – from executive leadership to pharmacy technicians - must spend time planning and implementing solutions to effectively address new shortages.
Impact on Patient Care
When you multiply all those extra tasks by frequency, duration and number of drug shortages, you end up with a lot of people spending a lot of time focusing on shortages. The feedback we’ve received is some health systems are managing up to 50 shortages per week while keeping an eye on up to another 100, or more. Undoubtedly the shift in how people spend their time has a negative impact on patient care.
Spending time dealing with drug shortages prevents pharmacists from focusing on other high-value clinical work. This includes working directly as a part of patient care teams, addressing regulatory requirements and improving patient safety.
Drug shortages also often present a critical disruption in patient care that must be addressed immediately. That disruption pushes any vital but less time-sensitive pharmacy duties to the back burner. Any of us who have worked in a hospital care setting recently know how disruptive it is when the crucial pharmacy member of your team is pulled away.
Another major finding of the report is that hospitals say drug shortages can directly put patient care at risk. Medication errors are more likely to occur when there are changes in how a product is ordered, prepared or dispensed. Switching to less-familiar alternatives, especially drugs that require unusual dosing instructions or different concentrations, makes it is easier for mistakes to happen.
The report also discusses the level of IT staff involvement required to update electronic health records and dispensing tools each time there’s a drug shortage. Getting the IT resources needed to make frequent, timely updates can be a challenge for any hospital system. Thankfully, there is a better way: The Drug Shortage App from LogicStream Health™.
To help mitigate the impact of shortages and manage them more efficiently when they can’t be avoided, hospitals across the country are turning to The Drug Shortage App. This management tool helps pharmacy teams better manage drug shortages and minimize disruptions to patient care.
Learn more about what this solution can do to help your organization take control of the situation by downloading a free overview of The Drug Shortage App at www.thedrugshortageapp.com.
About Dr. Brita Hansen
Brita Hansen, M.D., is Chief Medical Officer of LogicStream Health. She began her career as an internal medicine hospitalist physician after receiving her undergraduate degree at NYU and her Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. She served as Chief Health Information Officer for the Hennepin County Medical Center before joining LogicStream Health.