Problems and Solutions for Safeguarding Medications in Hospitals

Addiction is an ongoing public health crisis and hospitals are no exception. Narcotics and other medications must be properly safeguarded against unauthorized access, and problems quickly identified and corrected. The responsibility to safeguard medications falls mostly on those at the point of care, especially nurses.

Medication storage carts can play an integral role in protecting medications from getting into the wrong hands while keeping them accessible for fast administration.

Observation of Intake

If a problem is identified with patients diverting or otherwise not taking their medications at the scheduled time, direct observation is a common and simple way to reduce this issue. Direct observation can also include documentation of the drug’s administration.

Using Drug Administration Systems

Drug administration systems are an effective way of controlling the distribution of sensitive medications. These systems are usually made by the manufacturer and include punch cards, unit dose boxes, and automated packaging. These allow for not only the controlled distribution of medication but also for monitoring.

The Role of Medication Carts

As medication storage carts are integrated into the workflow of most modern nurses and medical technicians in hospitals, it makes sense to implement safeguards on the carts themselves. Most medical carts designed for holding medication have locks built-in, which employ a single key for every lock on the cart. However, additional security features can also be added.

Locked Narcotics Box

Locking narcotics boxes fit inside the locked medication drawers and provide an additional layer of protection without inconveniencing the medical professional. To administer the needed medication, the healthcare worker opens the drawer, unlocks the box, and takes out the needed dose. Then both are locked again immediately. Narcotics boxes are also outfitted with tamper-proof hinges to prevent theft.

Advanced Lock Solutions

If the problem with medication theft or diversion is more significant in a particular setting, advanced lock solutions can be employed on medical carts. A lock bar is one example, which fits over the drawers of a medical cart and has an additional lock to keep out unwanted intruders.

Electronic keypad locks, which open when the correct pin number is keyed in, are one option. An even more advanced choice are proximity readers. With a proximity reader, the medical professional scans their badge or another security pass in front of the medical cart to access the contents. This guarantees that only authorized parties can access the drugs.

While no system completely eliminates all problems with safeguarding medications, using the above strategies and tools can reduce the risk. Medication errors should always be documented and solutions devised and implemented to prevent similar issues in the future.

Keeping medication secure while still accessible at the point of care is one crucial advantage of medication carts in hospitals.