All healthcare facilities from doctor’s offices to clinics and large hospitals must properly store important medications. If medications are not correctly stored, they can become less effective or even dangerous. Some must be stored at room temperature while others need to be refrigerated. There are rules and tips for proper medication storage that every medication management person should know and follow. Proper medication storage and delivery systems must be chosen carefully. There are cabinets, mobile workstations, and carts to consider.
The Importance of Safe Medication Storage Practices
Safe storage of medications can prevent serious errors in the dispensing of those medications. Errors can cause discomfort, complications, and even death to innocent patients. But, better storage practices can prevent these errors. Broken storage systems in healthcare facilities must be replaced with new systems establishing a culture of safety. Medications must be properly stored and secured to avoid misuse and errors. The medication storage area should be clean and uncluttered to avoid contamination of medications.
Medication Storage and Delivery choices
Improved medication storage can make any healthcare facility more effective and safer for patients who rely on them. A Compact Automated Dispensing Cabinet may be part of the solution. Dispensing cabinets come in different sizes and specifications to fit different medication storage needs. This type of locking the medication storage cabinet comes in many sizes and configurations. Some cabinets hold up to 100 locking cells. Others are as small as 25 locking cells.
This type of cabinet is designed to sit on a countertop or for bigger sizes other mounting hardware. The cabinet is secured so it can not be carried away and is automated and connected to the cloud-based HIPAA-compliant electronic software system. The cabinets have touch screen controls for security and convenience.
These storage carts and cabinets are capable of both storing and providing automated dispensing of medications. The carts can be moved to the patients for point of care use. The automated cabinets and carts are locked down to avoid theft and loss of controlled medications.
They allow tighter inventory management and record keeping which can help with the billing of patients.
Tips For Safe Medication Storage
Eight helpful tips will make medication storage safer for healthcare facilities.
- Establish a system for tracking the storage of all medications throughout a facility. Centralize medication storage where possible.
- Establish a clear line of leadership within the pharmacy. One person or committee should be responsible for effective medication security and a medication storage system that is designed for safety and to avoid errors.
- Drugs and biologicals should be stored in an orderly manner in a secure location only accessible by licensed pharmacy personnel and nursing staff.
- Store all drugs in the containers they were received in. Then, dispense the drugs only in containers meeting official requirements for stability. Avoid prefilling syringes as this increases the risk of error and contamination.
- Store internal and external medications separately. Medications should be labeled for internal use only or for external use only. Poisons must be stored separately from all other medications.
- All drugs in schedules II, III, and IV of the controlled substances act must be stored in secure designated locations. This means in locked cabinets or carts.
- All medications, drugs, biologicals, and other substances must be clearly labeled with all pertinent information including expiration dates and storage temperatures required. Drugs must be stored at the designated temperatures which can be room temperature or cool storage. A thermometer can be kept with the medications to monitor the temperature. Drugs with similar names should be labeled in a way that makes them easier to differentiate. Perhaps a list of drugs that can be confused should be posted near the storage unit or area.
- Inspect the drug supply regularly and properly dispose of the ones that are expired, contaminated, in cracked or soiled containers, appear to be deteriorated, or are in containers that are missing secure closures. This should be done following accepted and required procedures for drug destruction.
The Main Components of Proper Medication Storage
According to Becker’s Hospital Review, There are three main components of proper, safe medication storage.
- Medication security must be maintained. That means the medications must be in locked containers or cabinets. They must only be accessible to licensed, authorized healthcare professionals. There should be tracking of who removes medications and when it is done. There are modern storage solutions with computerized keypads. Healthcare facilities should check with CMS and accreditation organizations to learn the proper standards of medication security to follow.
- The safety of medications. Healthcare professionals must be aware of drug recalls, high-alert drugs, and reports of unsafe uses of medication. There should be a list of five to ten high-alert drugs such as concentrated electrolytes and anticoagulants developed. Then, the drugs on that list should be monitored closely.
- The integrity of medications is important to maintain. This integrity involves storage temperature and medication dating. The drug manufacturers set the temperature medications should be stored at. The medication expiration dates can be set by the manufacturer or by scientific studies that determined beyond-use dates for specific medications. CMS mandates the use of the more conservative manufacturer’s information.
The best safety and medication storage cases, carts, cabinets, and procedures will be ineffective if the medical staff are not properly trained and willing to follow safety procedures. Supervisory personnel must regularly inspect medication storage areas to check for compliance and problems. Policies must be examined and updated as needed to maintain the highest standards of safety and security by the whole staff.
Regular training and policy reviews with staff will help keep everyone’s performance at a higher level. Listening to staff complaints, problems, and suggestions for improvement is a good policy. This is because these people are on the front line accessing the medication storage units and dispensing medications.
Every medical facility should give the safe and secure storage of drugs and medications the highest priority. With the proper procedures and staff training, patient safety will be maintained and medications will be secure. Proper storage procedures reduce the number of medication dispensing errors.