Protecting medicines, medical temperature monitoring

Protecting medicines through automated temperature monitoring

The below content was written prior to May 2020 when Checkit launched a new website. This coincided with the use of updated terminology for solutions, concepts and company names. The companies Tutela, Axon and Next Control Systems are now Checkit. Checkit’s Real-time Operations Management is now referred to as Connected Workflow Management, Tutela solutions are now referred to as Automated Monitoring +, and Axon/Next Control Systems solutions are now referred to as Connected Building Management.

The safety of medicines and vaccines is critical in hospitals, GPs, pharmacies, care homes and throughout the supply chain. Protecting medicines and keeping stock at the right temperature is crucial for patient safety, efficiency and avoiding waste within the NHS and any medical or healthcare setting.

A recent Care Quality Commission report findings highlight the common areas of risk when using medicines across health and social care in England.

While all healthcare providers have procedures for the management of medicines, ensuring compliance can be difficult due to the time-consuming methods used to measure and record temperatures in ward and medicine fridges. Staff often have to check temperatures manually, taking time away from patient care, meaning checks can be missed if emergencies occur. There is also no way to measure how temperatures fluctuate between checks or to view trends over time.

Some hospitals fit wired min/max probes to fridges that sound an alarm if temperatures rise above 8 degrees, but they can be overly sensitive, leading to alarms going off even if a fridge door is opened to retrieve medicines. Dealing with false alarms adds to the workload of nurses and pharmacy staff, again taking time away from other duties.

The good news is that a new generation of cloud based intelligent sensors can automatically monitor medicine temperature conditions in real-time. Placed within ward, lab and medicine fridges they can be intelligently configured to prevent false alarms and send alerts if temperatures rise above set parameters. Rather than simply sounding audible alarms, relevant staff receive text or email alerts on any internet enabled device, with managers having full visibility of what happened and the response to the incident. As monitoring is constant, there is an unbroken record of how temperatures have changed over time, which can be easily accessed and shared with regulators.

Is your medicine management meeting expectations?

Are your processes and compliance procedures in place for protecting medicines?

When it comes to protecting medicines within healthcare settings, real-time automated monitoring delivers benefits in six key areas:

1. Minimises false alarms

Sensors can be configured flexibly to incorporate the normal operations of a ward. For example, rather than simply setting off an alarm when a fridge door is opened and temperatures rise, the sensor can be set to wait for 15 minutes to allow the environment to settle – if temperatures are then still too high an alarm will sound. Many wards receive deliveries from the central hospital pharmacy at set times – sensors can take this into account, and expect doors to be open, and temperatures high, at certain times of the day.

2. Clear responsibilities defined

Who is responsible for responding to alarms and alerts can be a grey area in practice. Cloud based automating monitoring provides full visibility of what is happening, and both nursing and pharmacy staff are clear about their duties, and who responds to alarms and alerts.

3. Medicine waste reduced

Hospitals hold thousands of pounds worth of stock at any one time and protecting medicines is critical. Often these supplies are kept in unmanned medicine rooms on wards, meaning that any alarms may not be heard by staff, and valuable stock rendered useless due to temperature changes. By alerting staff electronically, whether they are on or off site, any issues can be investigated and dealt with before the product is spoiled.

4. Maximise process efficiency

If nurses or pharmacy staff are manually taking temperature readings or responding to constant alarms, they can’t be focusing on their main duties. By automating monitoring their valuable time can be better spent, increasing efficiency and thus reducing the costs of medicine protection.

5. Ensure patient safety

Obviously the main driver behind temperature monitoring is to safeguard the efficacy of medicines and therefore ensure that patients benefit from their treatments. As automated monitoring takes temperatures on a constant basis any issues can be spotted immediately, allowing staff to react quickly and ensure medicines are safe and effective for patients.

6. Drive compliance and make reporting easier

The CQC checks medicine management processes and records as part of its inspections, looking for reassurance that procedures are being followed. By using automated monitoring providers have a complete, verified, digital record of how medicines have been stored and how issues have been dealt with. This is easy to share, and makes demonstrating compliance simple and straightforward.

Given the importance of protecting medicines and vaccines, and the issues with manual and wired methods, it is time for all healthcare providers to look at the benefits that digital automated monitoring can bring to their operations.

Learn more about MHRA compliant temperature monitoring from Tutela Monitoring Systems who are part of Checkit

Find out about our smart sealed temperature sensors for healthcare

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