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Why Community Pharmacies need to engage with technology

Manual recording – just a waste of skilled resource?

The method recommended by the GPhC of manually checking fridge temperatures twice a day is no longer fit for purpose for the modern pharmacist. It’s simply not manageable, cost effective and importantly, fails to add any value. It’s become a tick box exercise, and with no checks and balances, open to abuse and ‘retrospective’ inputs.

This almost Dickensian methodology, now in its 50th (yes 50th) year means writing recorded temperatures of the medicine and vaccine fridges on paper, stuck to the fridge door. These days, everything we do must add value, but the GPhC insist that this manual written recording methodology is appropriate to ensure storage temperatures are within the often-tight parameters needed for the safe storage of modern medicines. But is it really?  Surely its time to update the official advice?

Within every pharmacy exists the need to demonstrate safe medicine management, and so proper processes need to be in place for the storage and access-control of temperature-sensitive medicines and restricted medicines respectively.

To quantify this, we are talking about basic fridges and freezers and door locks, except the content cost and risk to patients is far higher and the need to monitor these fridges and freezers for temperature stability and access control is far more important. Perhaps more important than you think!

Manual recording – just snapshots with huge data gaps

These twice daily manual checks, typically performed just before the start of business and at the end of the day, cannot take into account any temperature variations, thermostat swings, doors left open, potential predictive failure and alarm calling when failures occur.  The existing GPhC and CQC recommended record requirement is simply record keeping and, providing evidence forms filled out are supplied, that’s it.  Effectively a twice daily chore – a cost with zero added value!

Even inspection visits are based largely around written forms and to assess how the pharmacy operates with the aim of ensuring that the supply of medicines and the provision of pharmacy services to patients from a registered pharmacy are safe and appropriate.

Manual recording – means patients and/or the community at risk

We have all had experience with a sudden fridge or freezer failure at home, and we have to make choices about what we can save and what we dispose of. If you are a pharmacist or an assistant, how do you know if your vaccines or medicines are safe or not without continuous monitoring? A simple air temperature sensor is not necessarily the best indicator of product temperature and good stock may be wasted. The opposite problem could be that bad stock being kept and risking patient’s health.

Doors not being shut properly is also an extremely common issue leading to a rise in internal temperatures and stock loss, a simple door switch monitor could solve all this.

What’s needed is a truly independent continuous monitoring system with proper audit trails, not paper records where ‘gaps’ can be re-created or records lost, and where texts cannot be deleted and emails erased accidentally in simple automated systems.

Do we need independent pharmacy temperature monitoring?

The simple answer is yes, but not just monitoring on its own.  Pharmacy temperature monitoring supported by actively contacting the Pharmacist in person, to bring to their attention a failing fridge or freezer and by a trained independent member of staff. The storage of vaccines, bloods, insulin and a range of medicines don’t just become inactive, they can become outright dangerous if used, putting lives at risk.

The modern Pharmacist needs to remove unnecessary costs and this means streamlining manual processes which add no value.  In terms of pharmacy temperature monitoring, the ‘quill pen’ process needs to be updated with an advanced digital temperature and data monitoring system, so the pharmacist can to be alerted to temperature excursions and possible threat to stock – adding real, measurable value to his activity.

It’s therefore important that an alert or alarm is raised which triggers a corrective action report which requires a proper audit trail. The system will not allow this to be avoided, and investigating the cause is mandatory as well as detailing the corrective action.  All these processes are trackable and auditable for the sort of quality control processes required to maintain patient safety and to provide healthy outcomes, 24 hours 365 days of the year.

What role can technology play in supporting the Pharmacist?

With a new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in post, Matt Hancock, it can be expected there will be a renewed focus on technology and the role of the Pharmacist in supporting community patient care and Pharmacists up down the country become more centric to our healthcare requirements, supporting GPs and nurses.

Tutela is the world’s largest independent healthcare and life science temperature monitoring and data insights platform for critical process control of temperature sensitive biological inventory and products.

Tutela’s monitoring technology can remotely monitor every pharmacy fridge or freezer door, temperature, ambient and humidity. In every room, ward, department, hospital or remote clinic all under one account. Protected, secure with full reporting and action audit trail.

Our goals are simple, with independent monitoring of the healthcare and drug development activity, we aim to Improve health outcomes, protect reputations and support your team

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