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How to Prevent Drug Diversion in Your Hospital


6 Signs of Disturbing Drug Diversion in Your Hospital


One in 10. 

That would be the approximate number of healthcare workers abusing drugs, according to the American Nurses Association and U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Misusing or illegally obtaining prescription drugs or controlled substances has become so prevalent that the Centers for Disease Control even defined the term: drug diversion.

Why do healthcare workers or nurses divert drugs?

  • personal use
  • commercial sale
  • illegal distribution to others

Drug diversion in healthcare has reached “epidemic proportions” due to ongoing prescription narcotics addiction. Healthcare workers have consistent, easy access to the commonly diverted drugs: opioids, antipsychotics, and benzodiazepines.

Hospital managers and executives used to think drug diversion was something that happened “over at that other hospital,” but now realize the troubling epidemic can no longer be swept under the rug. 

Every healthcare facility must have a system in place to ensure drug diversion compliance. The problem is here, and to protect patient safety and staff health, a sound drug diversion program is the solution.

What are some of the signs of drug diversion?

Because healthcare organizations must carry prescription drugs in order to care for their patients, they are ultimately responsible for developing a drug diversion program. 

The Joint Commission recently published a newsletter on drug diversion and impaired health care workers. If you’re a nurse manager or director of pharmacy that is responsible for staff that handles drugs, you need to recognize some of their telltale signs of drug diversion:

  • Removal of controlled substances for patients not assigned to the nurse,  for recently discharged or transferred patients, or removal without a doctor’s orders
  • Diverted or forged prescription pads
  • A prepared syringe’s contents replaced with saline
  • Drug waste not properly disposed of or corroborated by witnesses
  • Pattern of patients continuing to complain of excessive pain, despite records indicating patient has received adequate pain medication
  • Failure to regularly document medical records and drug administration according to hospital policy

Opioids demand attention: our research found Fentanyl accounted for more than 20% of drug variances.

Consequences and negative effects of drug diversion

Failing to address drug diversion is failing to keep your patients, staff, and organization safe.

When patients are given inadequate pain medication, or in a very noteworthy case, insufficient anesthetic during an invasive surgery, the physical damage can be significant. The mental or emotional turmoil for patients suffering may be insurmountable long-term.

The integrity of your hospital is in jeopardy. The legal consequences, including vulnerability to civil or criminal suits, coupled with the associated financial costs, can be vast. Not to mention heavy fines from the DEA.

The direct financial impact of drug diversion is profound: hundreds of millions of dollars worth of controlled drugs are diverted annually. One dangerous case of drug diversion could easily bankrupt a hospital.

Staff who get away with drug diversion, even very small doses over a period of time, are not being protected by a hospital administration that promotes their safety and health. Opioids are highly regulated and monitored for a reason: they are highly addictive. Hospital leaders have a responsibility to ensure drug diversion compliance in order to ensure the wellbeing of their staff.

How to establish an effective drug diversion program

Leading-edge drug diversion monitoring software is crucial to preventing drug abuse in your hospital.

At Kit Check, we designed Bluesight for Controlled Substances to help hospital pharmacy directors track every drug administered in your distribution chain.

We align with your existing systems to reveal new data on your pharmacy’s behavior and performance using machine learning and artificial intelligence. After working alongside 250+ hospital partners on 3,000+ potential instances of drug diversion, we have the expertise you need to prevent drug diversion.

Learn more about key insights in drug diversion with our latest Diversion Quarterly Q2 2021.