After Republican Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts, political pundits are already predicting the failure of President Obama’s healthcare reform efforts. But even if the bill currently tied up in Congress fails to pass, healthcare reform does not have to end. In fact, if the bill does fail, maybe healthcare reformers can step up their focus on improving patient safety. Eliminating weaknesses in these areas could improve patient care and cut costs throughout the industry. But it will also require voluntary efforts on your behalf.
For instance, this month the Institute of Medication Safety reported that its survey of pharmacists and healthcare practitioners revealed current drug-stocking habits could affect patient safety. “One-third of respondents reported that economic conditions have resulted in less safe drug purchasing decisions, such as switching to multiple-dose vials instead of using single-use vials and prefilled syringes,” ISMP reports. “One-third of respondents also reported reduced availability of medications because their organizations had decreased inventory due to the economy. Many respondents who provided comments noted that they had even run out of frequently prescribed medications during the past year. A few suggested that new formulary restrictions have made important drugs unavailable without adequate therapeutic equivalents or substitutions.”
What can drug packagers do? Work to make single-use vials and prefilled syringes, which experts say can reduce administration errors, as widely available as you can. Invest in automation technologies and other manufacturing enhancements that can help you bring the costs down and maybe make them more affordable. Improve tamper evidence and add security to further protect patients.
Late last year, Institute of Medicine President Dr. Harvey Fineberg urged other efforts, such as developing fail-safe systems in hospitals and fighting hospital-acquired infections. Are there steps you can take to help fight errors and infections through packaging improvements?
As I say above, voluntary efforts are required throughout the healthcare system. Collaboration is needed between drug and medical device manufacturers and high-tech packaging and labeling providers. Investments will be required–but the resulting patient safety improvements and cost savings could achieve reform on their own.