Retail and pharmaceuticals are two very different industries that may not seem to have much in common at first glance. However, both fields have found applications for emerging technology to solve very similar problems. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is an incredibly valuable resource that has been introduced to retail spaces to track inventory and detect and deter theft. RFID now brings tremendous value to the healthcare field, continuing to show promise and results, especially when incorporated into a comprehensive drug diversion prevention program.
RFID technology uses wireless communication and radio waves to identify and track objects and equipment. RFID tags can store a significant amount of data, whether it is a single serial number or several pages of material. With mobile RFID readers and RFID-enabled scanners, inventory management can be optimized and simplified. In RFID-driven retail, digital-first models have been used to improve item tracking, integrate inventory management, track consumer demand without time lag, and manage inventory efficiently and remotely. Retailers like Walmart have cited increases in operational efficiency as well as cost savings in stores where RFID is fully operational. Walmart has successfully used RFID technology to effectively manage inventory, reduce the scourge of supply chain disruptions and reduce excess inventory in operations, further launching retail into the future of precision monitoring and discovery and improving overall results. So how can this technology be adapted to improve pharmacy management and patient safety?
Application of RFID in Healthcare
Healthcare systems must adapt and incorporate technological advances in the same way that retail organizations must maintain compliance, reduce stockouts, and identify and prevent medication diversion. The biggest opportunities for RFID lie in patient safety, compliance and drug inventory management. When these concepts are used in a comprehensive diversion program, RFID can improve the tracking of drugs throughout their journey, ensuring control, accuracy and accountability. RFID tracking data can also be valuable for drug monitoring when integrated with diversion analysis programs, adding another dimension to monitoring software, further minimizing diversion opportunities.
Preventing and identifying diversion should be a top priority for healthcare facilities and treated with the same urgency as other patient safety risks. Building an appropriate program to meet the individual needs of a facility has proven to be quite a challenge. The use of technology and automation, such as RFID tracking, can provide significant support in monitoring diversion throughout the chain of custody. Diversion program fundamentals and emerging technologies must work in tandem to not only stop but prevent diversion in hospitals and health systems.
Implementing a sabotage prevention program
Diversion prevention can be enhanced through several tactics, including having a passionate and knowledgeable advocate to ensure that hospital processes or guidelines are followed. It is important to build a framework for a successful diversion prevention program that utilizes industry best practices and includes integrated software solutions. A diversion prevention program was established to protect patients, staff, healthcare systems and the public from the harmful effects of diversion. Thorough screening of employees and training of staff in all departments in hospitals and health systems about what deviation looks like, how to identify it and how to report it can help identify a problem or increase self-reporting so that employees can get the help they need. Additionally, policies and procedures must be created with an understanding of all regulatory and compliance requirements as specified by both state and federal governing bodies. Drug diversion is a real and persistent threat, with many risk points throughout the chain of custody, requiring interdisciplinary and leadership collaboration and support.
Technology and automated solutions support hospitals and healthcare system diversion programs in controlled substance monitoring, control and auditing. Emerging technologies and tools, such as RFID tracking, can be used to strengthen a hospital’s approach to surveillance by simplifying and streamlining medication audit, loss and tracking throughout the hospital. RFID tracking can not only make inventory management easier for staff, but can also make the delivery and movement of drugs more transparent, helping to rule out or identify diversion cases in later investigations. With technology, monitoring programs can incorporate machine learning and tracking to improve accountability for controlled substances at depths unattainable through a manual process. The technology can also help identify situations where there is poor practice or deviation, both of which are detrimental to hospital care and patient safety.
Understanding the tools and technology that are used along the medication pathway, including how RFID supports medication diversion monitoring and prevention, is now more important than ever. Technology must be incorporated into existing systems to facilitate and optimize a diversion prevention program that is built on a solid foundation of policy and procedure. As the healthcare industry becomes more aware and aware of the comprehensive needs for diversion surveillance, it is clear that technology is a critical component to patient safety and diversion prevention. RFID is just one example of how exploring parallels between different industries can create new opportunities to adapt technology and solve problems. Our eyes must remain open to solutions in markets everywhere that use technology to solve problems. Where to look next?