New software helps track and locate missing drugs

October 23, 2006

Tracking and locating lost medications is a chronic problem for many hospitals. When a medication gets lost, there are so many different places it can be, including the several different drop-off points along the way before a drug reaches a patient.

Consider these scenarios. On delivery rounds, an adult chemotherapy agent is mistakenly delivered to the pediatric oncology unit. This could result in a potential med error disaster. Or what if a patient who is enrolled in an investigational trial is transferred to a different nursing unit, but the medication is sent to the wrong unit?

Aside from the patient safety issue and treatment delays, lost medications can be costly and impact staff productivity. To help hospitals better track medication deliveries, two health-system pharmacists developed a handheld, bar-code-enabled tracking system that utilizes the same technology that package delivery companies have adopted successfully.

Here's how it works: All medication delivery sites throughout the institution (nursing stations, refrigerators, medication carts) are bar-coded using the label maker provided. When medications are delivered from the pharmacy to a nurse's station, the bar-coded medication labels are scanned by the pharmacy courier at that location. All delivery information is accessible in a centralized database in the main pharmacy department.

Missing medications can be found on the pharmacist's desktop or by printing delivery reports. Signature capture of the person receiving the delivery is also available for added accountability.

While a standard pharmacy information system contains data such as: patient name, prescriber name, drug name, dosage, time and route of administration, it doesn't necessarily track or document where that drug has been delivered. "We developed this product to fill in the gaps," said Greg Eskinazi, R.Ph., marketing director for Apothetrac. Eskinazi noted that lost medications are a steady problem that hospitals have to deal with. "Sometimes patients get transferred to different units and their meds don't always follow them," Eskinazi said. "Tracking lost meds in large facilities can be time-consuming as well as a drain on pharmacy's resources." The Apothetrac system also eliminates the need to redispense expensive prescriptions and to discard lost medications that are returned to the pharmacy days or hours after they have expired.

The Apothetrac system is intended for big-ticket drugs, including oncology agents, total parenteral nutrition, certain medications with short expirations, as well as drugs that have narrow therapeutic windows or are in short supply.

Currently, Apothetrac is in contract negotiations with several hospitals that are interested in entering into a licensing agreement. Eskinazi launched Apothetrac with Albert Gaudin, Pharm.D., who developed the Apothetrac software.

The Apothetrac MDTS package includes: desktop and handheld software; Symbol handheld scanner, and a label maker. The system requires Windows XP Professional or Windows 2000.