A shocking 8 million U.S. healthcare workers are potentially exposed to hazardous drugs (HDs) each year according to the CDC. In fact, a report in Pharmacy Times states, “compared with any other occupational setting, the health care setting uses the largest and most diverse array of agents that are hazardous to humans.” Not only are they exposed to a variety of hazardous agents every day, the effects may be compounded over the decades of their career.
While OSHA’s Hazard Communication (HazCom) standard has historically provided HD regulation, the USP 800 was released in December 2019 to further minimize the risks of handling HDs in healthcare settings specifically.
Typically, USP 800 guidelines are accessed by nurses, doctors, pharmacy staff, and others through hard and digital copies of the drug information provided by a facility’s pharmacy director, risk compliance department, and other stakeholders. These copies are kept on an intranet, multiple spreadsheets and documents, as well as binders with printed information.
Even though these methods meet basic USP 800 compliance, the extra effort required on the part of healthcare providers to access this vital information leaves them at risk to dangerous exposure to HDs, which can result in infertility, cancer, and other devastating, even deadly, illnesses.
It’s not only our immediate frontline healthcare workers like nurses and doctors who may suffer the dangerous effects of occupational exposure to HDs, but also pharmacy staff, janitorial and shipping/receiving personnel, and even patients and their loved ones.
A study referenced in Pharmacy Times illustrated a lack of adherence to safe handling guidelines associated with increased exposure risk to hazardous drugs with “PPE use especially deficient.” Digital tools like Rhazdrugs are designed to alert nurses, doctors or other caretakers to PPE and steps needed to protect themselves from illnesses including COVID-19.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve heard stories of health care workers who have been exposed to the deadly virus and have died. The Atlanta Journal Constitution told the story of nurse Alexandra Faerber who sadly died from COVID-19 after being exposed in March. This is a situation where making PPE and disinfection guidance available at the fingertips of those caring for patients with infectious diseases could save lives.
Although health care facilities are held to USP 800 standards, inspection and enforcement is not done by the USP itself, causing uncertainty.
Depending on the services your facility provides and the patients it cares for, inspections and enforcement may be conducted by one of several agencies including Joint Commission, HFAP or OSHA. Individual states may also determine how USP 800 standards will be incorporated into their laws and require state regulatory agencies to inspect and enforce USP 800 compliance. The consequences for non-compliance may vary from letters or reprimands, to costly fines and sanctions or even the closure of your facility until it is brought into compliance.
With healthcare facilities in lockdown during the early part of the pandemic, compliance inspections paused, but they will soon resume and require healthcare facilities to show adherence to the broad requirements including maintaining an inventory of HDs, responsible HD handling, PPE needed, receiving, labeling, packaging, transport and disposal of HDs, spill control and much more. USP guidelines cover a lot of ground and affects virtually everyone within a healthcare facility.
Although not required yet by USP 800, digital searchable databases like RPharmy’s Rhazdrugs that present important hazardous drug information where healthcare workers can easily access it, like in their EHR or EHR, are imperative to reduce the risk of hazardous exposure for our frontline workers and vital support staff.
Maintaining regulatory compliance helps to minimize your facility’s legal risk, but the most important benefit of USP 800 is that it helps create a safe working environment for your employees. Digital databases add an extra layer of protection ensuring that hospital staff has easy access to these guidelines for the handling and disposal of hazardous materials, which, in turn, helps save the lives of the people committed to saving ours.
Want to know more about how Rhazdrugs can help you create a safer work environment? Schedule a demo today!