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Insulin pen use in hospitals reduces risk of medication errors

In a world where businesses look to cut corners to save a few dollars or hold off on changes to maintain the status quo, it is always refreshing to see one take steps to improve one of their processes even if it means suffering a few financial headaches. Such is the case in Salisbury, Maryland, where one hospital made the decision to move from vial and syringe administration of insulin to using insulin pen devices when treating diabetes.

With the insulin pen's introduction in the 1980s, the decreased likelihood of medication errors made it a prime candidate for home use. However, many hospitals have only recently begun to take steps to switch over.

Administrative challenges seemed to be at the heart of the delay in the implementation of insulin pens. For example, a new preparation and administration procedure requires writing and instituting new policies, educating staff, and increasing surveillance to ensure those administering insulin using the pens are doing so properly.

However, the Salisbury hospital determined that the move was worthwhile given the advantages of the insulin pen. These devices have important safety features that reduce the risk of accidental needle sticks and offer easier dosage measurements and more accurate delivery of the drug. The use of the insulin pen devices in a hospital have the added benefit of providing on-site education to patients, who will soon be using the devices at home to perform their own insulin injections.

Hospitals and health systems deserve credit when they make decisions with their patients' best interests in mind, even when it comes at an administrative cost. Certainly, the educated use of insulin pens in hospitals can lead to a reduction in medication errors. Although the introduction of new technology has helped reduce the chance of a medication accident, errors still occur every day for both diabetics and other patients visiting health care facilities. It is important for hospitals to remain vigilant in their care and stay aware of new technologies to continue to reduce these undesired events.

Source: Diabetes Health, "Hospitals Moving Toward Greater Use of Insulin Pens," Nancy Edgeworth, Nov. 10, 2011

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