Towards “zero risk” in cancer treatments
Every day, thousands of cancer patients visit hospitals to receive chemotherapy. They are hard sessions with major side effects that last for several hours. However, they remain essential in the fight against cancer, a disease that affected more than 277,000 people in Spain last year.
From the moment the patient sits in his/her chair in the Day Hospital, the pharmaceutical department of the hospital will have prepared the medication and the healthcare personnel have precise instructions from the specialist to administer it correctly.
However, what happens if there is an error in the drug administration phase, for example, the order in which the patients receives the drug, the antibiotic or the analgesic?
“Chemotherapy treatments save lives, but any error in the medication administration chain has very serious effects due to the high toxicity of the drugs and their side effects”, explains José Antonio García Pérez, product manager of FarmaTools.
To avoid this, Dominion, has developed a platform together with the Hospital Infanta Cristina in Parla (Region of Madrid) based on the identification of patients by bar code, the aim being to minimize the risks in the delicate process of administration of cancer treatments. The result: a mobile solution that ensures the correct allocation of drugs to the patient and monitors the order and the way in which the different drugs that make up the treatment are administered. In other words, it guarantees a personalised, updated and secure administration of medication against cancer.
This tool, fully integrated with FarmaTools, is Dominion's solution to the end-to-end management of hospital pharmacy that incorporates high-level clinical tools to monitor the use of the drugs and facilitate the management of stores, prescriptions, the preparation of medication mixes, cytostatic drugs and other circuits. It was designed, launched and tested successfully in the Infanta Cristina Teaching Hospital in Parla, and received the Profesor Barea Award for Innovation, Development and New Technologies in 2012. Since then, more and more hospitals have worked with the cancer drug administration tool.
So, how does it work? Can it completely eliminate the risk of errors?
From the moment a specialist prescribes chemotherapy treatment to the patient receiving it intravenously, the drug is specifically prepared in the hospital pharmacy and is personalized according to the type of disease, situation, test results and the patient's characteristics.
However, the patient's situation may vary between the moment of prescribing the medication and administering it in the day hospital, as can the initial prescription guidelines. “If these variations occur, the system identifies the change to the treatment and ensures that the patient receives the right prescription based on the changes made by the doctor. The preparation provides the right dose and route of administration, and in the correct order. Here, the use of this technology is fundamental, because it means that the drug mix can be adapted to the patient's needs at all times”, José Antonio explains.
Technology at the service of the patient's needs
Furthermore, the tool not only checks that the drugs allocated to the patient are the right ones, it also ensures that they are administered in the correct order. The entire administration process is subject to traceability, as are any incidents that may occur during the process: “The system records the occurrence of any kind of side effect, if there have been problems or lesions depending on the route of administration, if an allergic reaction or undesired effect is observed... everything. Medical staff therefore have all the information related to the treatment at their disposal, and they can modify the prescription so that the patient suffers the fewest side effects. We are talking of very serious pathologies, and we all have the responsibility to try and ensure that, at least, the treatment takes place within the necessary safety framework so as not to worsen the patient's situation”, says José Antonio García Pérez.
Precisely, to increase the patient’s sense of safety the tool incorporates a sound device that emits a 'tone of approval' every time it checks that the medication the patient receives is correct. This allows the patient to know that his/her treatment has passed all the checks required before the drugs are administered. This dual perception of safety is also shared by the personnel who administer the drugs.
“Healthcare staff are very aware of safety, because even if there is not a high rate of errors, if even one occurs it can have serious consequences and a very high in-hospital incidence”, he adds.
is it possible to completely eliminate errors in the administration of chemotherapy drugs? “Zero risk is hard to achieve, because the chain is very long: from the prescription of the medication to its preparation and administration to the patient. However, the aim of this project with the Hospital Infanta Cristina in Parla is to ensure that there are no errors of administration in cancer treatments, chemotherapy and haematology through the traceability of the entire process, and this gets us much closer to the desired objective. We have put technology at the service of healthcare to achieve this”, the product manager of FarmaTools concludes.