Prevent Hospital Drug Diversion With Secure a Drug

Written by Benjamin Mandel
February 13, 2024
drug diversion disposal with patient

Prevent Hospital Drug Diversion With Secure a Drug. Drug diversion occurs when prescription drugs are distributed or used in ways other than those intended by the prescriber. Unfortunately, drug diversion can happen in any hospital and put patients and staff at risk. If you’re a part of a hospital or clinic’s leadership, you are most likely also aware of the potential for severe financial and legal ramifications from drug diversion. Preventing drug diversion can be quite challenging, but there are steps hospitals can take to stop this problem from occurring.




Dangers of Drug Diversion


There are several serious risks involving drug diversion, for both patients and staff.  Drug diversion can cause patients to be improperly treated and suffer unnecessary pain. For instance, a patient might suffer needlessly because their pain medication was stolen and their medical records falsified. If a member of their medical team consumes these drugs themself, this could further endanger a patient with impaired healthcare professionals overseeing their care. In some cases, misuse of drugs can even spread infection due to workers using contaminated needles or tampering with medical waste. While these scenarios are rare, they nonetheless place a healthcare facility at a far greater risk of litigation, fines and negative patient experiences.

When drug diversion occurs at a hospital dangerous consequences can happen, the least of which is the negative financial impact when medicine is not being used for its intended purpose. Hospitals also can face stiff monetary penalties as well as a loss of reputation for quality care.

<style=”font-weight: 400;”>Additionally, this diversion also costs health insurers and the public money. Health insurers are generally paying for these drugs. And ultimately, these costs are passed down to the public as purchasers of insurance. The cost of drug diversion is quite startling and shows just how massive of a problem it is across the healthcare spectrum. The estimated cost to the public and private health insurers is a staggering $72.5 billion per year. It’s approximated that over 60% of these costs are incurred by public health insurance programs, meaning that taxpayers end up carrying the cost.


Signs of Drug Diversion


As those statistics prove, drug diversion is a common problem. Studies indicate that approximately 10% of healthcare workers in the United States abuse controlled substances. Furthermore, drug diversion often goes undetected. However, there are signs that administrators, staff members, and even family members can look for to try and spot incidents of diversion before it leads to a dangerous consequence.

Signs to look for include:

  • Showing up to work when not scheduled or volunteering for overtime
  • Insisting on being the one to inject patients with medication 
  • Heavy wastage of medication or lack of wastage
  • Patients complaining of medication not being administered or an increase in pain after the medication was reported as being administered
  • A pattern of removing controlled substances at the end of or close to the end of a shift
  • Improper disposal of drugs or failure to dispose of drugs

These are just some of the signs of potential drug diversion. It is important to train staff to be aware and share incidents of other unusual or suspicious behavior as well.


Challenges in Preventing Drug Diversion


Drug diversion can occur at many points in a hospital’s systems, from the ordering to disposal process, making it a particularly challenging problem. Unauthorized orders may occur. Medications may be switched while being stored or even during preparation. 

Diversion can happen in the pharmacy, in the operating room, or in patients’ rooms. Wastage is another vulnerable point. Drugs intended for patients can potentially be diluted or simply not administered to them. Medications that should be disposed of may instead be diverted. This could happen before or after they are placed in waste containers, or, in some cases, biohazard boxes may be stolen. With so many points of vulnerability, hospitals need to take steps to prevent drug diversion.

Hospitals also need to continually monitor the effectiveness of their prevention practices, since this can be an invisible problem that is easy to overlook. Diversion monitoring software can be useful in preventing diversion and hospitals may also bring in outside auditors to help hold themselves accountable. Frequent audits can become a very important tool in identifying problems. Once such information is obtained, facilities need to be prepared to act on such revelations to improve their procedures.


Lowering the Risk of Drug Diversion


Although diversion is a challenge, there are several steps hospitals can take to prevent drug diversion from happening in the first place. It’s essential for a hospital’s culture to prioritize such activities. Here are some steps hospitals can take to help prevent drug diversion.


As discussed above, audits can be useful in holding your hospital accountable. Both third-party and internal audits help for example to determine if your pharmacy is secure and if your facility is following sufficient procedures to ensure there is no unauthorized access to controlled substances. Audits can also help assess whether or not your employees understand the hospital’s drug diversion procedures.

Improve Security

Security is vital to preventing drug diversion. It makes diversion easier to spot and harder to carry out. Both automatic dispensing systems (ADS) and security cameras are effective security measures. ADS can help limit access to drugs, and security cameras can monitor who has been accessing drugs. Security cameras should be used to monitor the disposal of drugs in addition to the dispensing of drugs. 

Make Diversion Difficult

Having policies that make it hard for employees to divert drugs can help lower risk. One of these policies includes prohibiting employers from carrying or storing medications in their pockets. Another effective policy is to ban employees from carrying bags or other personal possessions into medication areas. Careful disposal of controlled substances can also help prevent diversion.

Encourage Staff To Report Concerns

It is important to create an environment where staff feel comfortable reporting  suspicions they may have concerning potential drug diversion. Your hospital should have a way for these concerns to be reported confidentially, as this allows staff to feel less hesitant about making a report.

Controlling Waste

Another important step hospitals can take to prevent drug diversion is to control waste. Preventing diversion at this step is particularly important since it is the most common point for diversion to occur. Hospitals should make sure they are reducing waste and ensuring it is disposed of in a way that prevents its use. Providing accurate doses of medication can help reduce waste by eliminating the need to throw excess away. Having ready-to-use doses can help ensure accurate doses of medication are ready to be administered to patients.

It is also important for any medication that needs to be wasted to be disposed of properly so it cannot be diverted. One of the best ways to ensure a drug cannot be retrieved after wasting is to use a method such as Secure a Drug. 

Secure a Drug is a fast and easy-to-use system that neutralizes drugs, so they are irretrievable. All a staff member needs to do is fill the Secure a Drug container to the appropriate line with warm water and place the drug to be disposed of in the container. With a gentle shake, the drug is neutralized. Once the container is full, it is closed and locked in preparation for disposal. Secure a Drug’s attached lid means there is no risk of it being lost when it’s time to dispose of the container.

Secure a Drug Helps Prevent Drug Diversion

Hospitals must prioritize the prevention of drug diversion in order to protect patients, staff, and the wellbeing of the organization. Not only are these actions in everyone’s best interest, but proactive measures are also required by law. Failure to prevent drug diversion can also result in significant fines and financial penalties in addition to severely damaging a hospital’s reputation. There are many ways to help prevent drug diversion, from audits and security to training and surveillance. However, one of the most important steps in the prevention process occurs during the disposal process. 

Secure a Drug offers a reliable and practical way for healthcare facilities and hospitals to prevent wasted drugs from being diverted. By neutralizing these drugs in a safe, user-friendly and efficient manner, your organization can take an important step in preventing diversion from occurring. Learn more about Secure a Drug and how you can introduce it into your healthcare facility.