Accurate and regular temperature monitoring of refrigerators containing patient medications is required from a compliance perspective, but clearly the biggest concern is ensuring patients receive medications that have been stored at appropriate temperatures to validate their quality and efficacy. Taking advantage of temperature monitoring technology solutions is a prudent course for both of these reasons, and the upfront cost of purchasing a system—compared with the cost of replacing medications stored in a refrigerator that goes out of range, rendering them useless—make such systems an attractive option.
Given that technology is always evolving and processes are continually reevaluated, launching an initiative to expand and improve on the current system is worthwhile. Begin with an evaluation of your current technology, even if that system is already wireless and robust. For example, expanding capabilities to include WiFi transmitters may allow expansion to outpatient centers at a lower cost than older technologies. Also, consider regulatory compliance—choose a system with an accepted certification, such as NIST certification. If your facility already uses wireless technology, it may be possible to continue to use existing hardware when switching systems, which will save considerable funds and thus assist in convincing administration of the project’s value.
Factors to Consider When Switching Systems
When evaluating which WiFi system to choose, it is important to consider accuracy, dependability, stability, ease of use, and versatility.
Improve Regulatory Compliance
Given that one-third of hospitals score noncompliant when surveyed on TJC’s MM.03.01.01—Medication Storage Standards, it is vital that your respective authority having jurisdiction recognizes the chosen temperature monitoring system’s certification. Ensure that the system you choose is certified by NIST or a similarly reputable organization.
Match the System to Your Needs
When evaluating systems, insist on specificity from your vendor; the vendor should be able to explicitly describe how the demonstrated features will improve temperature monitoring at your facility. It is especially vital to view a live demonstration of the technology in action prior to purchase.
Choose a System with Proven Ease of Use
It is likewise important not to undervalue the system’s ease of use. A system with an intuitive interface will ensure appropriate practices. Keep in mind that while information technology and engineering employees may easily understand the designer’s intention and how the system is meant to operate, employees in other departments—without technical backgrounds—may not. If users find the system confusing or cumbersome, incorrect data can be entered, which will require significant time and resources to resolve.
Seek Administration Buy-In
After identifying the system that best meets your facility’s requirements, create and present an executive summary to administration detailing the benefits that would be realized by switching. The executive summary should delineate how purchasing the new temperature monitoring system would improve workflow, patient care, and regulatory compliance.
A Multidisciplinary Effort
Before implementing the new temperature monitoring system, ensure that all staff is well aware of the change. Meet with representatives from each discipline affected by the new system—pharmacy, laboratory, food services, and maintenance—and provide hands-on training. The manufacturer of the new temperature monitoring system should offer education on the capabilities of the technology and the procedures required to use it correctly. Seek feedback from each department on their respective authority having jurisdiction’s notification policies and data retention requirements for properly tracking data using the temperature monitoring system.
Do More With Less
Every hospital department is seeking new ways to stretch dollars and make do with fewer resources, while simultaneously improving systems. While upgrading your temperature monitoring system may seem to be just another expenditure, the cost of the system must be weighed against the improvement to patient care, the compliance benefits, and the money saved through fewer wasted medications due to proper temperature oversight.
Jennifer Karpinski is a senior editor at Pharmacy Purchasing & Products magazine. PP&P would like to thank Darius Libiran, Engineering and Maintenance Automation Analyst at Metro Health Hospital in Wyoming, Michigan, for his assistance with this article.
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