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Does Your Medication Recall Process Need to Be Recalled?

When a medication is recalled, it’s for good reason, so it’s critical to prevent the recalled inventory from reaching patients. In one recent case, glass particles were discovered in sodium bicarbonate and atropine sulfate solutions, posing the risk of inflammation of a vein, granuloma, blockage of blood vessels, or life-threatening clotting. 

Hospital pharmacies almost always act swiftly on recalls, but it can be grossly time-consuming to check every tray, automatic dispensing cabinet, and kit in an organization to determine whether or not the recalled drug is present – and whether it’s from the offending lot. Too often, this process is labor intensive and inefficient, which can increase risks related to patient safety and regulatory compliance. 

It’s a constant battle. We recently looked at 300 hospital pharmacies we work with, and they reported that at least 267 different NDCs were recalled in 2023. That’s more than one recall a day for every weekday.

In the case of the sodium bicarbonate and atropine sulfate recall, we investigated exactly how much time pharmacies spend manually checking kits, carts, and trays for recalled medicines. Researching a cohort of 61 hospitals and three NDCs, as few as 2.9% and as many as 11.6% of a hospital’s pharmacy kits (e.g., for essential pharmacy code carts) on average contained the recalled medicines. 

That means as many as 97% of the pharmacy kits did not contain recalled medicines. Put another way, pharmacy staff using manual processes would have needed to check as many as 33 times more kit locations than necessary to locate and remove the medications. (For example, if a hospital has 100 total kits and only three of them contain the recalled medications, staff would have had to look in up to 97 more locations than needed to remove the recalled items.)

It’s even worse with OR trays (e.g., for anesthesia workstations). From 0.5% to 1.25% of hospitals’ OR trays contained the recalled meds on average, meaning staff using manual processes would have needed to check as many as 199 times more tray locations than necessary – again, to confirm the recalled meds weren’t there.

Automation improves efficiency, safety, and compliance

Wouldn’t it be better to move faster with less effort, reclaiming the wasted time, ensuring patient safety, and demonstrating exceptional compliance? 

Many pharmacies say yes. Forty-two percent (42%) of respondents to our recent HPOR survey called solving recall-related challenges important or very important in 2024. More than 4 in 5 respondents called patient safety (86%) and regulatory compliance (82%) the top two most important factors related to budget approval for new technology in 2024.

These concerns are why we invented KitCheck, the industry leader in RFID-enabled inventory management. KitCheck, used in more than 800 hospitals, uses RFID technology to automate time-consuming and inefficient recall and restocking processes.

KitCheck tracks the location of unit-level inventory, including lot numbers for all units, and can instantly identify recalled medications within trays and operating rooms. Pharmacy staff can access the cloud-based record of their medication inventory in real time from anywhere.

KitCheck’s simple, scalable process reduces errors and waste, maximizes staff efficiency, optimizes inventory levels, reduces costs, ensures patient safety, and streamlines regulatory compliance, whether during recalls or for expirations.

KitCheck spreads the word, but only when it’s relevant

When a recall is made at a KitCheck hospital, the KitCheck Network of hundreds of hospitals proactively alerts all network hospitals that carry the same NDC. With one click, alerted users can register the recall within their own hospitals and instantly see how much inventory is affected and where relevant trays and drugs are located. 

KitCheck has partnered with more than 20 companies across the medication supply chain to ensure universal interoperability. To date, over 210 million items have passed through KitCheck’s cloud-based registry across different technology systems such as EMRs, Ambulatory, Cold Chain, ADCs, and much more. We ensure that our products are compatible with GS1, RAIN, and ISO standards to ensure you have the best possible experience with our RFID tags. RFID offers distinct advantages over barcode inventory offerings because neither a clear line of sight to the product nor a per-tray scanning swipe are required.

Hospitals like MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and CaroMont Regional Medical Center report significant time savings. “With KitCheck, we have immediate visibility to thousands of medications,” says Mike Molby, CaroMont director of pharmacy services. “We significantly reduced unbudgeted labor costs associated with recalls and redeployed pharmacy resources to support key initiatives.”

For others, recalls remain an extremely time consuming activity, despite being critical for patient safety. A recalled drug that gets to a patient can be detrimental.  So can a subpar inventory management process. Consider automation. In so many ways, it can pay for itself. See how KitCheck quickly handles recalls by pinpointing recalled inventory down to each kit and tray.