Report reveals 62% of hospitals experienced over 10 concurrent drug shortages amid COVID-19

March 12, 2021

Kit Check announced the findings of its 7th annual Hospital Pharmacy Operations Report, which surveyed 191 top hospital pharmacy leadership professionals in the fourth quarter of 2020. The report aimed to uncover insights from those on the front lines of a global pandemic about how they experienced an unprecedented and unexpected year.

The report sheds light on how those on the front lines were forced to combat ongoing issues, like drug shortages and diversion, even as they were facing staffing shortages, tightened budgets, and increased safety concerns within their organizations due to COVID-19. For the third consecutive year, the hospital pharmacists surveyed cited drug shortage management as their top issue to address. This ongoing challenge was made even worse by COVID-19, with 86% of hospital pharmacists reporting that drug shortages are occurring more often due to the pandemic.

Furthermore, one in four pharmacists reported that each shortage requires more than 10 staff hours to manage, indicating that shortages are taking valuable time away from staff that they could be devoting to patient care. Shortages were also more disruptive than ever this year, with hospitals unable to stock the medications they needed for COVID-19 related concerns like intubation and ventilator management.

A new concern related to the pandemic also shone through in this year’s report – staffing shortages. In 2020, staffing-related challenges grew in importance more than any other issue. With COVID-19 causing more frequent drug recalls and shortages, the burden of these time-consuming occurrences fell largely on pharmacy staff. For 43% of hospital pharmacists, staff hours have become more limited, and for 25%, staff shortages are the number one issue to address.

Even amid the chaos of the pandemic, constant stressors like drug diversion, a lack of operational visibility and budget cuts also had a significant impact on hospital pharmacists. Some additional findings from the report include:

· 60% of hospital pharmacists have been given a cost savings goal due to budget tightening as a result COVID-19. For 39% of those pharmacists, their savings goal is as large as $300,000

· 25% of those surveyed reported that the pandemic has made it more likely that they’ll implement new technology within the next year, with an increased focus on tech to monitor drug spend, improve operational efficiency and track medications within the hospital

· Hospital pharmacists have the best visibility into their inventory when drugs are stored in the inpatient pharmacy, though still only 20% would consider it “excellent.” When drugs reach operating rooms and other procedural areas, only 13% of hospital pharmacists describe their visibility as “excellent”. These visibility variances by location highlight a lack of integration across systems throughout the medication ecosystem. In fact, 28% of hospital pharmacists consider their systems to be “not very” or “not at all” integrated.

· When areas of low visibility exist in the drug supply chain, the risk of diversion is high. 44% of hospital pharmacists have experienced a diversion event within the past 12 months, and only 23% say it would be “very difficult” to divert opioids from their organization.

· 24% are aware of a colleague who has diverted opioids and 10% have observed colleagues changing their behaviors to evade diversion prevention technology.

Kit Check has the post

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