Shiraz Khan, Head of Careplus Customer Experience at Well, gives us his expert opinion on the importance of relationships between pharmacists and care homes in medicine management. This follows The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) report earlier this year, on how employing pharmacists in care homes could save the NHS up to £135 million.
As an industry, the care sector faces many limitations with the way medicines in care homes are currently managed. There is definitely a need for systematic changes due to the pressure care home staff are currently under to continuously improve residents’ safety and eliminate errors. The management of this process is currently undertaken by carers and nurses, with little input from pharmacists, despite their expertise.
As stated in the RPS report, the number of older people using residential and nursing care homes rose by 21 per cent from 2005-13, with each resident taking an average of seven medicines a day, with some taking double or treble this amount. Without regular pharmacist-led medicine reviews, residents may not know when their therapy and treatment needs changing, which could impact on the resident’s quality of life and lead to avoidable hospital admissions.
The findings from the RPS report demonstrate the need for a pharmacist’s involvement in the management of medicines in care homes. There’s no doubt having a pharmacist’s input would bring many opportunities and benefits, however having one on-site isn’t the only solution. The relationship between carers and pharmacists is vital in improving each resident’s safety and reducing waste, however this can happen in a more efficient and cost-effective way through the adoption of technology. Devices such as the Well Pad allow pharmacists and carers to work closer together but also save the NHS money by avoiding the cost of having a pharmacist on-site.
With three quarters of residents exposed to a minimum of one potential medicine administration error, there is a significant need to improve the process, which can be dramatically streamlined with a digitised system. Well has recently launched a new device called the ‘Well Pad’, as part of its Well Careplus offering, which uses a unique barcode system to administer the correct medicine to the correct resident, each and every time. Rather than producing a snapshot of a moment in time like a pharmacist-led medicine review produces, the Well Pad creates real time support for carers and pharmacists. It allows care homes to proactively manage each resident’s medication, flagging to carers and pharmacists when a resident may need more medication, or a treatment review.
A recent study by the School of Pharmacy at Cardiff University demonstrated the tablet’s reliability and key benefits; including returned medicine wastage reduced by 55% and missing medication administration entries on the residents’ records reduced by 80%. The Well Pad also eradicated 21 out of 23 types of errors relating to medicine management, identified prior to the implementation of the tool during the study.
It’s clear that the way medicines are currently managed needs to be revolutionised and the current relationship between carers and pharmacists needs to evolve. Embracing technology in care homes can reduce the time taken for administrative tasks whilst enhancing the safe administration of medicines, giving carers more time to care for residents.