Julie Spencer, Head of Care at Avery Healthcare Group, discusses how the introduction of innovative technology has improved medication management within their care homes.
Effective medication management has been an ongoing problem for care homes for a number of years. Reports show that almost 70% of residents have experienced at least one error in their medication regime. Now, new technology is helping Avery staff tackle this serious issue by reducing the risks associated with using a paper medication administration record sheet (MAR) in managed care homes.
On average, residents in care homes take an average of 7.2 medicines per day. With each additional medicine comes an increased risk of errors in:
- adverse drug reactions
- impaired medication adherence
- compromised quality of life for patients.
Julie states, "At Avery Healthcare, we needed a simple solution to ensure that our residents were receiving the right medication at the right time. We currently have 50 homes within Avery so our teams are dealing with many complex medication regimes and controlled drugs every day. We found that the staff's time was regularly taken up for long periods with medication management, from receiving medication to administering it. These processes are not only time-consuming for our highly-qualified staff, but also reduce the time dedicated to face to face resident care - the very heart of our vision and ethos.
"We decided to run a pilot scheme across two of our homes where our residents have an extensive daily medication regime. After looking at a number of eMAR systems we decided to pilot Omnicell eMAR as it was really user friendly and provided a robust audit trail. In addition, the dashboard presents an oversight of medication rounds within the homes. The system gathers information, provides prompts and accurate instructions for our staff and gives managers real-time medication administration data at the touch of a button."
With this revolutionary system, each individual medication is identified through a barcode applied in the pharmacy. Medication can then be tracked at all stages from check-in at the care home and administration to the resident, to unused items that are disposed of or returned to the pharmacy. The system uses on-screen photograph identification and provides important medical history for each resident. It includes a simple alert and verification system to minimise the risk of medication administration errors in the home. Each staff member has their own log-in details which enables robust auditing.
Julie added, "Prior to using Omnicell eMAR the checking in of medication would take 5 hours per floor, totalling 15 hours of staff time per month for 3 floors. Since we have introduced the system this has been reduced significantly to 2 hours per floor which is now only 6 hours per month. This reduction of 60%, means our staff can spend more time providing face-to-face patient care.
"Our staff have really embraced the new system and we have had multiple reports detailing just how easy it is to use. Our previous systems always meant there was a risk of human error, but since we've introduced Omnicell eMAR the risk of this has been significantly reduced and our residents' safety has increased."
A 'carried forward' feature allows the homes to use up medication from a previous cycle rather than throwing it away helping to tackle another large-scale problem in care settings - medication wastage. A simple report shows how much stock needs to be ordered, avoiding the risk of surplus or shortfall.
The system provides a clear audit and robust trail of all medication management, making CQC inspections much easier. It mitigates compliance risks and provides accurate information in the event that medication is not administered and gives clear reasons as to why.
Julie concluded, "Following a successful pilot of the system within two of our homes, Avery is currently expanding the pilot to include a further six homes."
For care home staff and nurses either working in or considering a career in care, the good news is that the digitalisation of these services offers unparalleled opportunities to convert time-consuming administration time back into real resident care. Technology really is helping to facilitate care fit for the 21st-century.
1. Medication errors in nursing and residential care homes, CHUMS, 2009
2. Medication errors in nursing and residential care homes, CHUMS, 2009
3. The Right Medicine: Improving Care in Care Homes, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, February 2016.