New year’s resolutions are always a good way to kick off the year. The new year is upon us and as usual, we have a clean slate to work with. What will you do with it? Here are my suggestions for top 5 work-related resolutions for 2021.
We have spent a significant amount of time thinking and talking about the challenges of 2020. The list is long which is not surprising for a year that was difficult on many levels. If you’ve spent some time thinking about resolutions and making a game plan, I’m sure you’re on your way to achieving your goals. What’s on your list? Will you join the gym, start a new diet, work on a promotion, or decide this is the year to work less and spend more time with family? As we kick off 2021, I hope you have dedicated some time to think about ways to leave 2020 behind. At the same time, I want to focus on things we should resolve to improve upon in the coming year.
Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions for 2021:
- Get vaccinated: Every day it seems there is a different news story on the COVID-19 vaccines. So much has been learned and so many questions remain unanswered. We have heard multiple timelines, efficacy rates in the ninety percent range and plans for quick and effective distribution. This will continue to play out over the coming months and eventually there will be a consensus on the best path forward. In the meantime, there are other vaccines that should not be ignored or minimized. Vaccination rates for both children and adults have decreased dramatically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many reasons for this decrease including shelter in place orders as well as a decrease in yearly wellness visits and routine medical care. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association recently estimated that nine million childhood vaccinations were missed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Missed vaccinations increase our risk of losing heard immunity, putting us at risk for highly contagious diseases, including measles, whooping cough, and polio.
What can you do? Get vaccinated. Get caught up on all vaccines and encourage your patients to do the same. A good starting point is the influenza vaccine. Getting the flu is never fun, but it is especially challenging during an ongoing pandemic. Risk factors and symptoms for the flu and COVID-19 overlap in many ways. The overlapping risk factors can cloud the clinical picture and would likely lead to additional testing and potential quarantining. We know that vaccination remains the primary means to reduce influenza-related morbidity and mortality. If you haven’t already gotten your flu shot, it’s not too late. While you’re at it, catch up on any other missed vaccinations.
- Stay focused on infection control: 2020 certainly increased the attention we pay to infection control. Is your healthcare facility’s antibiotic stewardship program complete? Are you following nationally recognized guidelines? Are your policies up-to-date? Let your consultant pharmacist help ensure regulatory and clinical compliance (and, if you don’t have a consultant pharmacist yet, consider using one). According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), antibiotic resistance is among the greatest of public health threats today, leading to an estimated 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths per year in the United States. Since antibiotic stewardship falls under the infection control umbrella make sure it is addressed in your infection control program.
What can you do? Start with the policies you already have. I’m sure you have reviewed your policies multiple times in the last year. As guidance continues to come out, revisit your policies to ensure they are following the expectations of the leading organizations such as the CDC and state department of health. Enlist the help of your consultant pharmacist to help keep you up to date on changes and best practices.
Antibiotic stewardship begins with education and a great place to start is the CDC’s Core Elements of Antibiotic Stewardship. Here, you can learn about site specific steps you can take to develop and implement a system. Targeted areas include outpatient settings, hospitals, and nursing homes. Your consultant pharmacist should be familiar with these elements and can help guide you on implementation and monitoring, but don’t stop here. There are more resources available and your consultant pharmacist should be well positioned to help guide you in this area.
- Avoid drug shortages: We have been talking about and dealing with drug shortages for many years. The ongoing pandemic has exacerbated the problem and caused additional shortages and challenges. In a recent post, I wrote about how COVID 19 is impacting the drug supply chain and leading to dangerous shortages. Completely avoiding drug shortages is a time consuming and nearly impossible task. However, navigating around them to avoid interruptions in patient care can be done with expert help. Your consultant pharmacist should be well versed in this area and provide guidance to keep you moving forward.
What can you do? I suggest starting with the list of FDA Drug Shortages. This will allow you to confirm shortages and perhaps stay ahead of the curve. Next, the FDA’s Search List of Extended Use Dates to Assist with Drug Shortages will allow you to extend the expiration date on certain products, so you can continue using medications that would otherwise be considered expired. Next, consider contacting multiple distributors and finally, don’t forget about compounding pharmacies.
- Get serious about safe injection practices: Every year, demonstrating safe injection practices is near the top of the list of most common deficiencies. During our fall visit with our clients, I discussed the top Fifteen Common Safe Injection Practice Deficiencies and How Your Consultant Pharmacist Can Help. Among the most common are not labeling multi-dose vials opened and drawn in a patient treatment area as a single patient vial; opening, dating, and saving multi-dose vials on anesthesia carts for future use; and splitting of single-dose vials.
What can you do? The first step to ensure safe injection practices is to develop and follow policies and procedures that are based on nationally recognized guidelines such as the CDC, APIC and World Health Organization (WHO). Your consultant pharmacist should be able to support you in this process. Next, make sure you are working with a consultant pharmacist that performs comprehensive audits on a regular basis. You need comprehensive audits because so much is found by surveyors that would not be apparent to a pharmacist performing a superficial audit. Beyond being comprehensive, you need routine visits from your pharmacist. Frequent visits serve not only as additional eyes on your operation, but also as a good opportunity to reinforce correct behaviors. We all know that repetition is the key to proper execution under pressure. Let your consultant pharmacist find it or help you fix it before a surveyor does.
- Stay ahead: If you’re already one of our clients, you are familiar with our ongoing clinical, regulatory, benchmarking and survey updates as well as the ongoing tools and resources we provide. One of the most frequent compliments I receive from my facilities is how connected and grounded they feel because of my routine visits and updates. It sounds self-serving to say that using the services of a consultant pharmacist is an absolute must for facilities who are interested in being on the leading edge of patient safety and survey success, but I believe it’s true even if you choose to work with a different consultant pharmacist. The key is finding someone who is specialized, has the bandwidth to be thorough, provides ongoing support on industry changes, and has comprehensive benchmarking that spans various specialties. It’s hard to do this effectively on a part-time basis or on a small scale. If you need help choosing a consultant pharmacist, read my post titled “Are you working with a highly qualified consultant pharmacist?” Use these questions to determine if your consultant is actually qualified to keep you ahead.
Putting it all together: You’ve made it through one of the most challenging years in our history. You’re about to embark on a new year full of hope and promise. Take some deep breaths and get started on making 2021 a better year. Stay tuned throughout the year for additional updates on the above topics and more.
If you want additional information on these items, or need guidance on next steps to take, don’t hesitate to reach out…I’m always happy to help.
The Consultant Pharmacists at OctariusRx provide guidance on safe medication management, survey readiness and cost savings to ambulatory healthcare facilities/surgery centers, senior care facilities and pharmacies We also help individual patients optimize their medications to improve their quality of life and save money. Contact us for assistance.