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Drug Diversion Management: Truths and Myths

Posted by Patrick Yoder on May 13, 2021 12:36:15 PM
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True or false? Most hospitals believe that more than 80% of drug diversion activity is captured by current processes and technologies.

If you said true, you are right. Just about half (51%) of hospitals believe that nearly all diversion activity is detected. Unfortunately, they are wrong. Current data suggests that more than 95% of diversion activity not only goes undetected, it goes uninvestigated. And if it is detected, it takes a long time to confirm diversion is occurring – 22 months, on average.

Tackling diversion hurdles drug diversion can come in many forms, regardless of package

What are the biggest hurdles hospitals face when it comes to detecting drug diversion more efficiently? Limited staff time and other priorities competing for attention, according to an online poll of more than 300 attendees at a recent Becker’s Hospital Review roundtable on “The Hospital Pharmacy Leader and the Fight Against Drug Diversion.

This was echoed by webinar panelist Andy Schuelke, PharmD, Regional Informatics Pharmacist at St. Vincent Healthcare, SCL Health-Montana. As the primary investigator responsible for drug diversion investigation at his hospital, he said that the time commitment poses his biggest challenge.

Another panelist from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Hospital Sisters Health System, added the COVID pandemic has magnified the burden on her pharmacy team, which is already stretched thin. Pharmacy Director Julia Schimmelpfennig, PharmD, MS, BCPS, CDE, shared that pharmacists have even less time now to focus on identifying and managing diversion.

The roundtable zeroed in on other hurdles as well. These included determining where in the hospital diversion was occurring, understanding the workflow associated with various procedural and specialty areas, difficulty communicating specific discrepancies staff should look for and lack of technology.

Turning to technology

Across the board, technology is seen as a game-changer for combating drug diversion. When the webinar attendees were asked, “What do you see as the #1 biggest opportunity to improve diversion identification?” nearly half (48%) named technology such as automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). In addition, 66% said they currently use technology to identify and manage drug diversion.

Schuelke credits technology for enabling him to shift from a reactive drug diversion management approach to a proactive one. Using software for tasks such as generating weekly reports and identifying standard deviation differences has proven such a time-saver at his hospital that it eliminates the need to hire another employee to track diversion.

However, technology can present its own set of challenges, pointed out webinar panelist Janice Ahlstrom, FHIMMS, CHIMS, CCSFP, RN, BSN, Director, Risk Advisory at Baker Tilly. In particular, she noted that analyzing the enormous volumes of data captured can pose a burden on staff, and the lack of integration between systems such as the electronic health record (EHRs) and automated dispensing system (ADSs), can make it difficult to tie suspicious events together.

The hospitals with whom LogicStream Health works have recognized there is a better way to identify and manage drug diversion. Data from disparate systems can be both disconnected and messy, making it challenging to generate meaningful insights. That is why we focus on bringing all this information into one system to provide visibility into the drug lifecycle, including prescribing, dispensation, administration, and wasting.

Gaining actionable insights

Our solutions combine disparate sources of data in near-real-time from multiple technology platforms within a hospital system, including EHRs, ADSs, and time and attendance systems. The Drug Diversion App from LogicStream Health™ synthesizes this data to highlight potential risks, problem areas and documentation anomalies across the clinical continuum.

Automated notations provided by The Drug Diversion App enables hospitals to respond quickly and determine the need for intervention, rather than waiting for a staff member to make time for the laborious process of reconciling “old” data.

The App also facilitates efficient task management and reporting when an investigation is warranted. It serves as a complete diversion monitoring tool that helps augment investigations through improved collaboration and communication for multidisciplinary health system teams.

Technology not only enables hospitals to detect higher levels of diversion activity than they currently do with legacy manual processes, it also does it much faster and more accurately. That translates into a win-win-win – it saves valuable time for overworked diversion review teams, enables hospitals to get timely treatment for staff members in need of help or at risk of addiction, and protects patient safety.

View Drug Diversion Panel Discussion

Becker’s Hospital Review recently hosted a panel with LogicStream Health, Baker Tilly US, Hospital Sisters Health System, and SCL Health on emerging protocols and technologies for combating drug diversion. Hear how the experts are implementing new tools and best practices.

Watch the recording here.


About the Author

Patrick developed a passion for innovation re-engineering bicycles to better suit the needs of childhood. He started his career in medical research, then as a Clinical Pharmacist and an Informatician. He developed experience leading innovative teams at Wolters Kluwer Health as the Vice President of Informatics and Clinical Development. There he spearheaded the creation of a solution that established the company as the recognized leader in the market within four years. He also led the informatics team at Hennepin County Medical Center before co-founding LogicStream Health.

Topics: Drug Diversion

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Patrick Yoder, PharmD, CEO and Co-founder, LogicStream Health

The LogicStreaming blog is most often authored by Patrick Yoder, Pharm.D. Patrick is CEO and co-founder of LogicStream Health and covers a variety of topics related to hospital and health system clinical process improvement opportunities. The LogicStreaming blog is here to educate and inform hospital and health system leaders on topics such as:

  • Drug Diversion
  • Drug Shortages
  • Drug Utilization
  • Nursing Documentation/Flowsheet Management
  • Clinical Process Improvement
  • Trends & Issues Affecting Healthcare Leadership & Clinicians
  • Innovations in Healthcare Information Technology
  • Healthcare Leadership
  • Healthcare Patient Safety & Quality

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