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Thursday, November 4, 2021 12:00 PM

Rethinking Drug Diversion Solutions for Real Results

Written by Matthew Streff, Manager - Professional Services, FlexButton - iatricSystems

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Drug diversion among healthcare workers is ultimately underestimated, undetected and under-reported. According to Porter Research, roughly nine out of ten healthcare professionals have met or know someone who has diverted drugs, and 40 percent of hospitals lack programs to prevent this commonality from happening.

So, what is happening? And why is it so difficult for healthcare systems to get a grasp on drug diversion to prevent patient and employee harm? Let’s dive in.

To start, drug diversion poses a significant threat to patient safety. Risks to patients include inadequate pain relief and exposure to infectious diseases from contaminated needles and drugs, compounded by potentially unsafe care due to the healthcare worker’s impaired performance. Additionally, drug diversion also has serious public health concerns, including increased substance abuse admissions, drug-related hospitalizations, and overdose deaths.

While hospitals settings are at risk for drug diversion because the supply chain of medications are moved from the manufacturer to distributors, to pharmacies, to specific units, and finally to the patients, the majority of prescription drugs are used in outpatient settings, so that’s where most of the drug diversions occur. What also might come as a surprise is that the primary driver of drug diversion isn’t money; it’s addiction. The American Nurses Association estimates that as many as one in ten nurses face drug or alcohol addiction.

Healthcare organizations are finally realizing that the traditional methods for detecting drug diversion just don’t work anymore. In the past, they relied on monthly reports showing what had been removed from cabinets. Survey respondents agreed that ADA reports were not detecting the diversion that’s happening (creating false negatives) and falsely flagging people who are not diverting (creating a false positive). They also realize that without a drug diversion program in place, healthcare facilities could be at risk of potential DEA fines and reputational damage when your organization makes headlines.

Luckily, there’s some good news. In the same study conducted by Porter Research, respondents are beginning to recognize the value of more advanced analytics and machine learning, with 65% agreeing machine learning would be an effective tool and 84% said advanced analytics would be effective.

Awareness and recognition are the first steps to prevention. All facilities and systems are affected by drug diversion, but it’s up to you to rethink how your organization is handling it. Coming to terms with the effects is just the beginning—now it’s time to do something about it.

During this year’s Fall Exchange, we hosted a round-table discussion with Jackson Tate, Research Director, Pharmacy Solutions from KLAS Research, John Burke, President, IHFDA, and Carolyn Bourke, R.N., with a lead-in discussion by Rob Rhodes, Executive Vice President, iatricSystems to dive into the topic of drug diversion. During the conversation, they shared how having the right analytics at the right time can help save lives.

An estimated 95% of drug diversion cases within hospitals remain uninvestigated, according to Forbes. This is primarily due to organizational denial and ineffective monitoring—this is a statistic you have the power to change. Watch the highly attended drug diversion session and learn how the ideal solution can pull data from various sources, including ADC’s, EHRs and time-keeping machines. Watch now!

What's Next

With the prevalence of drug diversion still being a problem in hospitals, having ways to mitigate your risks can go a long way. You can contact us at if you’d like to learn more about any of our clinical/EHR solutions that can help support you with detecting drug diversion – whether it is finding discrepancies with your hospital’s dispensing cabinet records or opening a prompt investigation into possible diversion.