How wireless sensors protect medications and lower costs

AdTaxi-PharmAdv-WirelessTemp1To ensure that medications are shipped and stored correctly and comply with government regulations, pharmacies and hospitals are turning to wireless temperature monitoring technologies. These systems not only offer protection for patients, they lower costs by preventing product loss due to power outages or equipment failures.

When stored improperly, medications may become ineffective or even toxic for some patients. Fluctuations in temperature, pressure or humidity can cause certain drugs to degrade or may damage the product’s packaging, which can lead to contamination.

Many pharmaceuticals contain proteins that are sensitive to variations in temperature. Even a brief spike in temperature change can cause a drug to lose its efficacy, while sudden or prolonged freezing may result in microscopic cracks to ampules or glass containers. That may not be a big deal in the case of certain pain medications, but it can mean life or death for a patient taking insulin for diabetes or relying on nitroglycerin for a heart condition.

In addition, humidity can lead to mold or cause dampness that makes product labels illegible, resulting in a significant — and preventable — loss to the pharmacy or hospital.

Requirements for wireless systems
In the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in charge of regulating the storage of pharmaceuticals before they reach consumers. Regulations are based on World Health Organization guidelines for Good Storage Practices. Most countries adhere to the GSP, which means that even if the medication you need was produced outside of the United States, chances are it has been handled in compliance with the FDA rules.

The FDA requires that wireless monitoring systems keep track of air temperature and relative humidity, as well as provide data reporting. Systems should also include both visual and audible alarms to notify key personnel in the event of an emergency such as a power outage or system failure. Visual alerts may include email or text messages sent to connected devices such as a computer or smartphone.

Types of systems
Wireless monitoring systems consist of well-placed sensors to track temperature and humidity and readers to collect and share data. Most systems send data to users over a Wi-Fi network. Others may rely on Bluetooth devices or use radio-frequency technology.

According to the WHO, sensors should record conditions within plus or minus 5 percent of maximum accuracy. Systems may be either hosted or Solution as a Service (SaaS)-based. In the case of a hosted system, all of the hardware and software is located in-house and monitored by pharmacy or hospital staff. SaaS systems rely on an outside system supplier to host and manage the software, server and database. Pharmacy or hospital personnel can access the data through a secure Web interface.

Wireless monitoring systems allow pharmacy or hospital staff to act quickly to resolve problems or to save valuable specialty medications. That’s good news for patients and healthcare providers alike.