Pros and cons of IV workflow management systems

Pondering the need for an IV workflow management system (IVWMS)? You’re not alone if you are. According the most recent PP&P State of Pharmacy Automation Survey, 15% of facilities have already implemented something and another 29% plan to do so in the next few years. The only surprise is the relatively low percentage of facilities planning on implementation in the near future.

There are plenty of IVWM systems to choose from, even though the PP&P SOPA Survey doesn’t reflect that. (1) Every system is designed with the same goal in mind, but don’t let that fool you. Each vendor puts their own spin on the process with varying degrees of functionality, cost, ease of implementation, customer support, and so on.

With such a range of products you really can’t go wrong, right? Not true. Depending on the needs of a facility, one could definitely make a regrettable decision.

Here are the global pros and cons of IVWMS as I see them, in no particular order:

Pros:

  • Improved safety: bar code scanning during CSP preparation, imaging for volume verification, +/- gravimetrics
  • Decreased compounding errors
  • Remote verification, i.e. removal of a pharmacist from the IV room. Some don’t see this as an advantage, but I certainly do.
  • Improved data capture. Whether or not the information gets used is anyone’s guess, but it’s there for the taking.
  • Improved documentation for regulatory compliance. Lot numbers, expiration dates, images of product components, etc. Part of the benefits of data capture.
  • Workload tracking. Also part of data capture.
  • Decreased cost from fewer wasted doses, i.e. items that won’t get made because the doses fall out of the work queue when discontinued. This doesn’t always happen in a manual system.
  • Consistent workflow, possibly streamlined.

Cons:

  • Financial and labor resources needed to purchase and implement. Depending on what projects one has in the hopper, this can have a significant impact on a facility.
  • Financial and labor resources needed for continued system maintenance.
  • Another disperate system added to the mix, including another database to manage and maintain.
  • No true interoperability. Some systems offer rudimentary interfaces, i.e. one way data transfer, but not true interoperability between systems. This is the Holy Grail for third party vendors.
  • Change, especially in workflow.
  • Addition of hardware to the cleanroom. This varies from system to system, but remember that anything added to the cleanroom environment has the potential to impact airflow and must be cleaned.

Not all pros and cons apply to each system. For example, some systems are much less expensive than other, some require fewer resources to maintain, some offer much more robust functionality, some have a smaller physical footprint in the cleanroom, and so on. The goal for anyone looking at these systems is to maximize the Pros and minimize the Cons.

Feel free to leave additional Pros and/or Cons in the comment section.

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  1. The 2015 SOPA Survey shows the following vendors “under consideration”: DoseEdge by Baxter, BD Cato by BD, i.v.SOFT by Aesynt, Pharm-Q by Envision, IVTrac by PlusDelta, and Script Pro’s Telepharmacy. Pharm-Q by Envision no longer exists as the IP for the product was gobbled up by BD, and ScriptPro is a small player in this space. The vendors listed in the survey do no represent a good cross section of available systems. There are others.

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