Late-night telepharmacy service an asset to hospitals

August 20, 2001

PharmaCheck helps hospitals provide after-hour service

 

HOSPITAL PRACTICE

Late-night telepharmacy service an asset to hospitals

A shortage of pharmacists, coupled with an abundance of medication mistakes in hospitals (a key contributor in an estimated 98,000 deaths, according to a 1999 Institute of Medicine report) has prompted MedNovations Inc. to launch PharmaCheck After Hours.

The telepharmacy service provides around-the-clock professional pharmacist call center support, including medication order review and order entry, to healthcare institutions.

Christopher Keeys, Pharm.D., MedNovations' CEO, explained the need for a system like PharmaCheck. "We saw that it was difficult for many facilities—particularly smaller hospitals—to budget and staff night pharmacies," he said. "Clearly, there is a professional need for competent night pharmacists that is not being met, and we saw the timing for PharmaCheck as critical, given the medication error data that exist."

PharmaCheck is instantly accessible to clients through a toll-free phone number and via the Internet or telecommunication lines. When nurses need to have medication orders reviewed or have a dosing question, they simply connect with PharmaCheck, whose pharmacists and technicians review the patient's medical history and check the medication order. MedNovations also assumes liability for questions it answers.

"The turnaround is very quick," said MedNovations' president Kenneth Dandurand, R.Ph., M.S. "Basically it is the same as having a pharmacist on staff at the hospital."

Currently, only one hospital—Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C.—has implemented the PharmaCheck system, with a few other hospitals in the process of finalizing contracts. Depending on the size and type of service requested, the PharmaCheck system can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $150,000 per year. Currently, MedNovations employs five pharmacists and three technicians who provide services to Sibley from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., with the capability to provide 24-hour, seven-day-a-week support as more hospitals purchase PharmaCheck.

"PharmaCheck is often less costly for hospitals than employing an in-house pharmacist, especially with the current shortage of pharmacists," Dandurand explained.

In the first few months since PharmaCheck was implemented at Sibley, Dandurand said the service has dispensed an array of drug information and caught a variety of dosing and medication mistakes. The service receives from 10 to 20 requests per night. "Nurses are very shorthanded these days," he said. "And I believe it makes them feel at ease knowing that someone is looking after them."

Joan Vincent, R.N., assistant administrator of patient care and chief nursing officer at Sibley, agreed with Dandurand. "PharmaCheck After Hours is excellent," she said. "Our physicians and nurses on staff at night feel absolute relief knowing that all medication orders have been checked by a pharmacist. While we have no firm data as of yet, PharmaCheck can only help to prevent mistakes."

The past few months have also allowed PharmaCheck to work out the kinks that appear in every innovation. "We have had some discussions to help improve PharmaCheck," said Vincent. "Although we've had no major problems. Right now, we are looking into how we can improve communication among the pharmacist, nurse, and physician."

PharmaCheck appears to be hitting the market at just the right time. New Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) standards that became effective June 1 ban nonpharmacy personnel from accessing pharmacies at night. "This is a dramatic statement by JCAHO to really drive home the concept that it's not acceptable to have unmonitored and unsupported medication order processing occurring at night without pharmacist oversight," said Keeys.

Vincent added, "We knew we had to act so that we continued to meet JCAHO standards. PharmaCheck After Hours has lowered our liability from errors, and supports our compliance with JCAHO regulations regarding both medication order review and after-hour pharmacy."

Although the benefits of PharmaCheck seem to be abundant, it remains unclear actually how many hospitals will choose to implement the system. MedNovations is hoping PharmaCheck's success at Sibley, coupled with new JCAHO standards, will compel other hospitals to implement its system.

"We are just starting to extend our marketing efforts outside of the developmental phase," said Keeys.

In the future, the Greenbelt, Md., firm plans to continue developing PharmaCheck and hopes to obtain peer recognition within the professional pharmacy community. Vincent gave PharmaCheck her complete endorsement, saying, "I would recommend PharmaCheck After Hours for any hospital that wants pharmacy support at night and doesn't want to hire a pharmacist. The service is outstanding—I feel like we've finally entered the 21st century."

Daniel Ten Kate

 



Daniel Kate. Late-night telepharmacy service an asset to hospitals.

Drug Topics

2001;16:22.