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November 16, 2021

Future of Pharmacy Podcast: Achieving the Delicate Balance with OR Medication Management

Len Hom
Director, Product Marketing, Omnicell

With anesthesia providers and pharmacies on the same page, patients can benefit from a seamless experience in an operating room (OR). Matching these two parties' needs with closed-loop technology is crucial for this type of environment to succeed. Ken Perez, Omnicell's Vice President of Healthcare Policy and Government Affairs, sat down with Dr. Patrick Guffey, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer at Children's Hospital Colorado and Anesthesiologist at Children's Hospital Colorado, on the latest edition of the Future of Pharmacy Podcast to discuss achieving the delicate balance of medication management in the operating room.

Ensuring safe medication management in the OR is of critical importance. It's where any number of medications are drawn up and administered, yet half of U.S. hospitals haven't yet fully deployed automation in their operating room or procedural areas.

This is a genuine concern for anesthesiologists. A manual medication workflow can lead to possible safety gaps, especially in an OR where there's no guarantee that every controlled substance will be at your disposal in an organized fashion should something go wrong and when the unexpected arises during surgeries and procedures.

Manual processes make it easier for drug diversion since there are fewer opportunities to detect missing controlled substances right away. Patients may also not receive the essential medication at critical times, putting them in harm's way.

Manual workflows are also time-consuming, putting pressure on the OR team and leading to the potential of the wrong drug being administered. An automated OR makes it much easier for anesthesiology providers to streamline workflow and ensure patient safety.

It's easy for errors to happen in an environment that is so dynamic. The potential of human error paired with manual medication processes makes it a risky bet. A more reliable, technology-driven approach can support better outcomes and safety in the operating room.

In a manual environment, you'll also see redundant documentation when an anesthesia professional is required to document all the administered medications on paper, then again in the electronic health record. It becomes a genuinely tedious and risky practice.

In some instances, compliance can be a challenge. But the latest automation technology makes this easier for ORs everywhere. You'll find compliance simpler with a closed-loop solution in the operating room, where medication dispensing automation systems and the electronic health record are integrated.

So how can you get pharmacy leaders motivated and ready to partner in automating your OR? It's essential to generate awareness, create alliances, and formulate plans for automation. You must be inclusive and ensure that the entire team – anesthesiologists, nurses, and providers – are involved in decision-making. Change is always a challenge, but the benefits outweigh the cost of change.

When shifting to an Autonomous Pharmacy in the OR, it's crucial to have a change management mindset throughout implementation. You can do this through the following actions: 

  • Recruit champions within the OR and lean on them as examples
  • Anticipate objections and have prepared responses
  • Consider a pilot in a couple of operating rooms or with a team that uses automation consistently
  • Help your anesthesiologists become proficient with the technology. After using it several times, it will become part of their practice
  • Demonstrate how providers that have used automated systems prefer them over manual settings

Automating medication management in the OR is a key part of the larger journey to the Autonomous Pharmacy, a zero-error, fully autonomous medication management infrastructure that's helping to solve some of the most pressing challenges, not only in the operating room but across the entire continuum of care. Find out more in the latest episode of the Future of Pharmacy Podcast.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author(s). These views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time and may not be held in perpetuity.