How to prevent drug diversion using a holistic, tech-aided strategy

Drug diversion is a big problem. But a proactive, strategic approach can make a significant impact when it comes to recognizing and preventing it.

Drug diversion and its impact

What is drug diversion? It involves illegally obtaining and/or using prescription drugs intended for patients. While the targets can be virtually any prescription drug, the most common are opioids, antianxiety drugs, and stimulants.

Drug diversion plays a significant role in contributing to the nation’s prescription drug abuse problem. In fact, some 37,000 diversions occur each year. And it’s fairly agnostic – it happens at healthcare organizations of all shapes and sizes, and at all levels of clinical and other staff.

Its impact is deep and carries a far-ranging ripple effect, starting with a breach of security, privacy, and protocols. Importantly, it also negatively impacts patient care, while also eroding patient trust. In addition, the ripple effects extend to financial impacts, plus regulatory and compliance issues, as well as the reputation of the healthcare organization.

A strategic, holistic approach to drug diversion prevention

Why has identifying and battling drug diversion been so challenging? Clearly, tight budgets further constrained by the effects of the pandemic have played a role. But importantly, the playbook needs to change. Traditional, manually driven approaches just won’t cut it any more. They leave too many monitoring and detection gaps, and their timeliness is often ineffective.

So, what can health delivery organizations do to move the needle? They can implement a drug diversion intelligence program. And the good news is that a proactive, strategic approach for recognizing and preventing drug diversion can make a meaningful difference.

First and foremost, a drug diversion and detection prevention strategy needs to be holistic. That means incorporating a multi-layered approach to ensure security, privacy, and compliance, while leveraging an advanced technology platform.

Best practices for how to prevent drug diversion in hospitals include initiatives that engage all functions – and all levels – of the organization. These initiatives typically involve four main areas:

  • Culture – starting at the top with executive buy-in
  • Support – staff training, anonymous reporting, and rehabilitation assistance
  • Process – a drug diversion committee, investigatory staffing, and incorporation of findings into training and monitoring efforts
  • Technology – adoption of a monitoring and detection platform

Growing adoption of tech solutions

While all of the above best practices are vital to success in preventing drug diversion, the power of monitoring and detection technology in particular can prove to be a game-changer. Driven by machine learning and artificial intelligence, these platforms are now being more widely adopted: surveys indicate their use increased from 29% in 2019 to 44% in 2021. And they’re making an impact: 73% of healthcare executives rated them “effective” or “very effective” in diversion detection.

The platforms support drug diversion detection and remediation by increasing visibility to help uncover suspicious behavior patterns, enabling the identification and tracking of diversion activity. Comprehensive solutions enable the identification of:

  • Discrepancies in high-risk scenarios
  • Anomalous behaviors
  • System access issues

Importantly, this technology can also fully integrate with other systems, applications, and clinical workflows to further enhance visibility and eliminate monitoring gaps.

There are no easy fixes when it comes to drug diversion prevention. But a strategic, holistic strategy supported by advanced technology can make a real difference for patients, employees, and healthcare delivery organizations.

Wondering where to start? Check out our whitepaper: "Addressing drug diversion in healthcare: Where do I start?” You’ll find further perspective on the effects of drug diversion and get how-to information on creating a full lifecycle drug diversion monitoring program.