29 March 2022
The strain on the NHS and its workforce is common knowledge, but since the pandemic people have an even greater understanding of the pressures that NHS employees are facing and the toll it can take on them physically and mentally.
As Covid-19 transitions to an epidemic we shouldn’t forget that we are also battling a modern stress epidemic. According to the Mental Health Foundation 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Work-related stress is a big issue. Although there are many causes and cures, one factor that can support staff and contribute to a healthier working environment is effective technology. As part of Stress Awareness Month 2022, I’m highlighting how digital tools can help promote better working lives. I’ve seen the positive impact they can specifically make to medicine management working practices and ease pressure on hospital pharmacy teams.
Before joining CareFlow Medicines Management (CMM) last year, I worked in the NHS for 15 years in various pharmacy roles. While working at South West London & St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust and St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust I was responsible for digital and clinical programmes of work. Before moving to project management, I worked as a Pharmacy Technician, including both operations and staff management, so I have a good overview of operational needs. Now on the opposite side I’m supporting CMM’s customers to realise the considerable efficiency and patient safety benefits of introducing an e-prescribing system.
A major cause of stress is not having enough time to complete the demands of a role. Out-of-date and time-consuming paper workflows can play a part in hospital teams experiencing high stress levels.
Some NHS Trust Pharmacy teams are dealing with hundreds of patients at any one time, all with paper drug charts at the end of their bed that they need to go round to review and action manually. An electronic prescribing system can modernise processes and free up time by managing all patient chart information in one central management system. Pharmacy teams can easily identify what they need to do and prioritise work by risk, to process prescriptions in a timely manner and avoid incidents caused by delays. Users can also monitor patient and manage workload remotely across several hospital sites and only attend on site if specific care is required, eliminating unnecessary travel time and freeing up valuable time for care.
Without a digital process it is very hard to prioritise activities. Services are reactive rather than planned and this can put additional strain on other colleagues. For instance, the only way prioritisation would work previously is if a nurse or doctor would call you to flag a prescription and request supply.
When it comes to carrying out audit activities, a digital system makes it possible to do these remotely rather than physically reviewing each paper drug chart on the ward. In my time as a Pharmacy Technician, it wasn’t always possible to see clearly which members of staff had contributed key information to a paper drug chart, as signatures can be ambiguous, and I would spend valuable time investigating. Information added to CMM’s system is automatically time and user stamped so any queries and medications errors can be investigated and dealt with directly and efficiently.
Both nurses and pharmacy staff benefit from the time saved to order medications, by ordering medicines electronically via the system. Nurses no longer have to physically visit the pharmacy on site with a patient’s paper drug chart; which in turn results in a risk reduction as the paper drug charts no longer need to be taken away from the ward; meaning the chance of missed and delayed doses of medications due to the paper chart being unavailable is removed.
Ordering medications electronically also reduces duplication; as all orders are trackable; including date last ordered and supplied. This means that the pharmacy needs to process fewer medication returns which are the result of duplicate orders; saving both time and money.
A digital approach ensures a patient’s record is always retained securely and centrally for staff to access at any time along with eradicating the turmoil of mislaid drug charts and time spent by doctors rewriting these and pharmacists re-verifying medications.
Reporting functionality is a big advantage that is often overlooked. It can give Trusts opportunities to harness large amounts of data which can be used to prioritise team resources and work collaboratively with other teams to support processes and care at a team or Trust level. Examples of reports used could be daily reports sent to the pharmacy team detailing where new medications are prescribed which require a pharmacist’s immediate attention or a report detailing missed doses of high-risk medications which should be reviewed at the earliest opportunity.
Prescribing workflows are smoother and faster with the support of close integration to a Trust’s wider EPR system and the ability to integrate with third-party systems such as drug ordering cabinets and prescription tracking software.
Delivering patient care is a huge responsibility and health professionals will feel better supported using intuitive systems that are designed to enhance that care.
Transcribing errors which can cause patient safety risks are eliminated within the CMM e-prescribing system because the solution automatically completes orders at the click of a button, rather than staff writing requests on paper. Legibility issues are completely removed, and the system can be set-up in such a way that key mandatory information must be entered, such as dose, frequency and allergies, which before would be easier to not complete if staff were distracted or forgot to complete the information on paper drug charts
Users can also take reassurance in knowing that the CMM e-prescribing solution can help sites be compliant with national guidance and targets. Examples of this include VTE risk assessments within the solution; the ability to easily audit delayed and omitted medications along with the means to utilise the discharge interface enabling discharge prescriptions to reach GPs well within the 24 hours target. This means fewer instances of practices having to request information and the transfer of patient care is safer and faster.
Stress Awareness Month 2022 is held every April by the Stress Management Society. The society is dedicated to helping individuals and companies recognise and reduce stress. Further information on the campaign can be found here.
To learn more about CMM’s e-prescribing system and request a demo please contact email@example.com.
By Siobhan O’Keeffe, Project Manager
Siobhan O’Keeffe, Project Manager
CareFlow Medicines Management (CMM)