E-Pharmacists Improve Patient Safety, Staff Efficiency

Hospital staff can now electronically access a 24-hour pharmacist service, even when there is no pharmacist available on-site.

Subscribing to an online service lets hospitals have a pharmacist on hand 24-by-7, even when theres not one on-site.

Nearly 4,000 hospitals in the United States dont have around-the-clock pharmacy services, due largely to a persistent shortage of pharmacists thats expected to continue to worsen over the next several decades.

Union Hospital in Elkton, Md., is one of many hospitals that does not have a pharmacist available on-site after 9 p.m., despite the need for newly prescribed drugs to be dispensed throughout the night. Unions solution was to subscribe to Rxe-source, a service from Cardinal Health that makes pharmacists available throughout the night.

Traditionally at Union and other hospitals without a 24-by-7 pharmacy staff, if a pharmacist is unavailable during the night shift of a hospital, a nurse takes the medication order from a physician and, in order to access it immediately, presents the request to the house supervisor, who then overrides the need for pharmacist approval and provides access to the medicine.

Orders are then reviewed and input into the system in the morning by the staff pharmacist. Often, if the need for the drug was immediate, it has already been administered to the patient. Only then is there the potential to catch problems including drug interactions or patient allergies.

Instead of this patchwork solution, Rxe-source connects hospital staff to a pharmacist at Cardinal Healths off-site pharmacy service center, where the pharmacist is able to immediately review the medication orders and patient records, verify the accuracy of the order and enter it into the hospital system. This allows the nurse to administer the approved medication.

In addition to improved patient safety, Union Hospital pharmacy director Kathy Tierno said its helped to ease the burden on pharmacists. "The pharmacist isnt as stressed out; they dont look forward to this big stack of orders. Instead they can start their workday."

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