One large gripe in the hospital setting is the speed of medication verification by pharmacists prior to dispensing to the floor.
Often, one large barrier is the volume of orders that pour into the pharmacy after a medical team finishes their rounds.
Inevitably, questions arise and phone calls are made to prescribers to confirm some variable that may delay verification of a medication that others are awaiting to give.
As such, some hospitals place pharmacists on the floors to partner with a team to gain further insight into orders and reduce this communication lag.
However, with the rise of mobile technology, can a mobile device reduce the time of pharmacy verification over standard stationary computer terminals? For me, this is a great question. During my residency, I heavily used my iPad during rounds to answer questions and help with order entry on the go, especially with STAT medications, but I never considered if this helped increase my workflow.
A recent study in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy by Ray and colleagues sought to determine the benefits of integrating mobile devices with pharmacists on rounds. The study was designed as a cross-over study of pharmacists using stationary computer stations one month and then iPads in another month to determine the speed in which orders were verified.
Interestingly, they found that orders using the iPad were decreased significantly (7.5 minutes vs 38.9 minutes, p<0.001). The benefits of having an iPad on rounds also included increased clinical references for the pharmacist to utilize, and further access to patients lab values, medical records, and medication profiles. The authors noted that the iPad allowed pharmacists to more easily resolve medication order entry issues at the time they were prescribed.
However, several limitations of the iPad were noted in the study. One major issue was that due to most hospitals having several VPNs, these different networks caused frequent loss of connection if the team and pharmacist moved from floor-to-floor. From personal experience, this has always been an annoyance as it requires some time to relog into the network. The team may have already moved to another patient and there is some lag time in bringing that patient up on the iPad during a round as a result. The other issue noted by the investigators was the relatively small keyboard built into the iPad user interface, which was difficult to work on at times.
I think this is a great preliminary study investigating whether mobile devices can be beneficial for pharmacists.
While research using mobile devices during medical rounds and by physicians has been conducted, pharmacists have had limited research in this field. I think the next step is to investigate if the utilization of mobile devices by pharmacists decreases the response times for drug-related questions (e.g. drug interactions, IV compatibility). Stay tuned!