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Cost-saving tool improves treatment for care home patients

27 January 2016

pharmacist with elderly patient

Medicine-managing tool to improve patient care and save millions of pounds for care homes

A new online tool designed to improve medicine management in care homes in Wales could lead to “safer and more effective” treatments for patients and help cut costs by up to £4.6m a year, according to an analysis by experts from Cardiff University.

In a report published today, researchers from the University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences highlight the benefits of implementing a digital medication management tool designed to help pharmacists intervene with the administration of medicine in care homes.

The electronic system, developed by Beacon Digital Health and Invatech Healthcare, gives pharmacists complete access to the medicine records of patients and enables them to remotely link-up with care homes, providing professional advice and ensuring medicines are safe and effective for patients and that administration records are correct. The tool also gives pharmacists the ability to alert care home staff to new medicines and dosages.

In their evaluation of the tool, the Cardiff University experts showed that the system could eradicate 21 of 23 types of errors relating to medicine management identified prior to the implementation of the tool, and provide a number of interventions to prevent further errors from occurring, therefore reducing significant risks to patient safety.

The team estimated that for the 26,000 care home beds in Wales, there could be a potential annual saving of between £3.2m and £4.6m by implementing the tool to reduce the number of waste medicines.

Dr Mathew Smith, from Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, said: “The management of medicines in care homes is notoriously difficult. There are significant challenges associated with safety, quality and accountability in medicines administration and record keeping, with serious threats posed to the vulnerable patients in our care homes.

“Our evaluation has shown that many of these risks can be reduced by implementing the system and enabling pharmacists to make proactive and consistent interventions, which ultimately have a positive effect on patient safety.

“Furthermore, the evaluation has shown that millions of pounds could be saved by making informed decisions on stock levels and reducing the amount of medicine that goes to waste.”

Care homes have recently been scrutinised by academia and safety agencies for the care they provide to patients, particularly regarding the management of medicines. As such, there has been a call to increase the involvement of skilled pharmacists in this process to provide expert advice and opinion.

In light of this, Beacon Digital Health and its NHS sponsor Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABMU) were awarded a grant through the Welsh Technology and Telehealth Fund (HTTF) to implement and evaluate a digital solution that enabled pharmacists to communicate with care homes in South Wales.

The tool was developed by Invatech Healthcare and rolled out to 30 care homes in South Wales.

Experts at Cardiff University evaluated the tool over an 18 month period to determine its impact on the safe and effective use of medicines in care homes.

The results of the evaluation are being presented today, 27 January, at a research symposium held at Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.