New Technologies-New Challenges

New and emerging technologies in the field of automated dispensing devices and systems are proving to be a most innovative advancement for the provision of medications for facilities and institutions. The benefits of utilizing these devices and systems extend to providers of pharmacy services, nursing staffs, patients, and insurers.
Bar coding and chip technologies allow for pharmacists to more efficiently manage human resources and improve on the accuracy of fulfillment and dispensing. Dispensing devices and systems that utilize bar coding and chip technologies reduce waste, eliminate packaging storage and distribution considerations, and are a deterrent to diversion. The costs and associated problems with blister packaging and bingo cards are substantially reduced as well as the expenses associated with discontinued medications and returns to stock.
These devices and systems are user friendly and have been embraced by nursing staffs due to convenience, ease of operation, and coordination of dispensing and medication administration record keeping. Patients are less at risk of receiving wrong medications; and the probability of medication shortages is greatly reduced by tighter inventory control.
In the event medications are discontinued, diversion and waste is reduced, resulting in cost savings to taxpayers and insurers.  For the pharmacy community these new technologies also present new challenges and responsibilities. Provider pharmacies and their Pharmacists-In-Charge will be responsible for the overall operation of these devices and systems. Policies and procedures addressing all aspects of operation to include: security, access, location, accuracy, inventories, maintenance, licensing, filling, and dispensing must be developed, maintained and reviewed. Policies and procedures must also address quality assurance and adverse events associated with the use of these devices and systems. Most importantly, these devices and systems must conform to the rules and regulations of regulatory boards. In many cases the devices and systems must be inspected and approved by the regulatory board before initiating their use.
These new technologies also present challenges to regulatory boards, particularly, when regulatory boards do not have rules and regulations that adequately apply to and address these devices and systems. The time it takes to draft new rules and the process associated with approval and adoption of proposed new rules often lag behind new innovations, processes, and technologies. These regulatory challenges must not be an impediment to the benefits and progression of new and improved technology.
Resolution of these challenges requires collaboration between licensees and regulatory bodies to work cooperatively to safely introduce and utilize these new technologies. There is no question that new technological advances offer a better way of improving outcomes for all involved and interested stakeholders. In the absence of specific rules and regulations, licensees and regulatory boards should develop a framework and action plan which will allow for the safe utilization and implementation of these innovative improvements. Pilot programs, dialogue, and continuous quality oversight which address all areas of concern and challenges are excellent ways for licensees and regulatory bodies to work together. Boards of Pharmacy, licensees, and developers of new technologies must mutually embrace the challenges facing each affected party. A middle ground can be reached and the ultimate benefactor will be the patient.
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