Healthcare has been on the front lines of the global pandemic. COVID-19 has had lasting impacts on central pharmacies. With global shutdowns and supply chain blocks, there has been added stress on pharmacy workers to keep up with the need for medication. This added stress has led to a mass exodus of pharmacy workers due to burnout and has forced remaining workers to pick up even more work.
From 2017 to 2020, drug shortages were the #1 issue faced by hospital pharmacists. 86% of hospitals reported increased drug shortages due directly to the pandemic, and 62% are currently facing over 10 different drug shortages. Some of these shortages include life saving medications such as Albuterol inhalers, cardiovascular agents, and dialysis solutions. Pharmacies have had to make manual changes to their products and inventory which has slowed the workflow for central pharmacies.
The Pandemic Impact on Hospital Pharmacies
This slowed workflow has had negative impacts on pharmacy workers with 70% of hospital pharmacists having to take on new job responsibilities during the pandemic. 75% of pharmacists reported feeling symptoms of burnout, and 80% of pharmacies reported struggles in filling open positions. With all of this added stress on pharmacy workers that are already burned out, there is an added risk for human errors in pharmaceutical processes, so what is the solution?
Some pharmacies have been implementing pharmacy automation technologies to relieve some pressure off of pharmacy workers. Automated systems can manage inventory, sort medications, check drug interactions, and even track patients medical histories. Automated medication dispensing technologies can dispense up to 700 medications per hour, and with the specific inventory management there is less chance for errors in picking these drugs. Medication errors are unfortunately relatively common due to human error, but automated processes significantly reduce this risk! Technology reduces the amount of human interaction which leaves fewer opportunities for human error while simultaneously improving patient care.
Implementing automated technology has numerous benefits besides increasing the quality of patient care. Automated inventory processes can reduce the amount of pharmaceutical inventory that is wasted because this technology can move drugs to higher demand locations before they expire. These processes can also save hospitals money as this technology is cheaper to implement than hiring new workers every time someone leaves.
Automated technologies have many benefits in the medical field, and many hospital pharmacists agree that operational technology is critical for success. Implementing these technologies is necessary to better the care of patients as well as to relieve the stress of healthcare workers in a time where burnout is affecting the majority of them.