Many believe that the opioid epidemic accelerated in 2020 due to fallout from the pandemic. The CDC reports that there were over 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the US from May 2019 to May 2020. There are many factors that contributed to the increased number of opioid deaths in the United States, from job loss to loneliness; clearly, many people turned to opioids as an outlet for stressors in life.
What does this mean for independent pharmacy owners?
Often, pharmacists are the first to flag patients who might be struggling with opioid addiction. Yet, this past year has brought many security challenges for independent pharmacy owners. Increasing demand for touchless delivery, hiring new staff members and lack of tracking can increase the risk of drug diversion during these hectic times.
Here are some ways your pharmacy can prevent drug diversion and improve patient safety.
Improving Contactless Delivery Safety
There is a higher than ever demand for “touchless” or “contactless” service. Patients are limiting their contact to decrease their risk of getting coronavirus. Some independent pharmacies are offering “contactless” delivery, conveniently dropping off prescriptions at the patient’s front door.
“With everybody wanting to stay home, we've increased our home delivery service,” says Tyler Young, pharmacists at Hines Prescription Shop. “Patients are more likely to stay with us instead of reaching out to a mail-order pharmacy.”
This new delivery trend is helpful during the pandemic -- but it also increases the likelihood of drug theft. Some pharmacists are concerned that prescriptions can get stolen before getting picked up by the patient.
To minimize the risk of drug theft, independent pharmacies can create a delivery schedule, to provide an accurate timeframe when they will be dropping of the medications. Communicating with patients is the best way to ensure that they will be home when their prescriptions are delivered.
Some independent pharmacy owners are turning to automation to simplify the process.
“Because we have the RapidPakRx during the pandemic, we're able to offer better service to our patients who request home delivery,” adds Young. “We're able to sync all their medications up to one day, take care of any needs they have at one time, and it really helps us reduce delivery costs as well.”
The RapidPakRx is a strip packaging solution that can complete packaging for up to 50 patients using only one technician in an 8-hour shift. The all-in-one design makes it easy to fit into any workflow and reduces labor and on-hand inventory required.
A Surge in New Staff
Across the healthcare industry, there has been a surge in new hirings to keep up with the changing demands of patients during the pandemic.
Many independent pharmacy owners have hired additional staff to help administer COVID-19 tests. Now, many are preparing to help distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to their communities.
With growing demand for temporary pharmacy staff, there is an increased risk of drug diversion and theft. It Is difficult for pharmacy owners to thoroughly screen new staff when they need immediate assistance.
Retraining staff to identify signs of drug diversion can help minimize the risks. Creating team leads or a person in charge for each activity is another way to help hold staff accountable. It is also beneficial to provide tools to help minimize drug theft.
“Adding the RxSafe to our pharmacy has allowed us to reduce the number of employees, monitor inventory levels remotely, and have the assurance of knowing that the machine is a deterrent for theft,” says Anne Henriksen, owner of Malley’s Compounding Pharmacy. The RxSafe 1800 can hold up to 3600 stock bottles in a secure vault. It offers real-time tracking of every operator interaction and helps minimize human error.
With an increasing focus on COVID-19 testing and vaccines, you have less time to keep track of medications and C-II narcotics.
“The RxSafe 1800 will actually weigh each bottle to make sure that the number of tablets that are left in the bottle matches what you just said should be in there,” says Rose.
Not only does the RxSafe 1800 weigh each stock bottle when it is returned, but it also uses biometric login to help keep track of staff who access the safe.
“The RxSafe has made my life easier because I know my medications are secure, I know what the medications are, how much I have, where it's at, and I know every time medication is taken out of it,” says Rose. “I know who took it out, when they took it out and when they put medications in, I have all that information that before we didn't have that.”
The RxSafe 1800 also offers remote stock management, making it easy to access inventory information at any time. It reduces theft and diversion, without increasing labor costs.