Administration and Leadership, Best Practices, Operations

The EMS Drug Shortage Problem Continues

Photo/Adam Mason

EMS leaders are faced with an ongoing management challenge of assuring that a supply of safe medications, in a form that EMS personnel can use safely, is available to all patients needing that treatment. This week, there are about 100 products that are currently unavailable across all types of the medicines that are used in emergency care. The prices of the medications that are available continues to increase.

Agencies and personnel can develop programs that can address these concerns, using a five-part process.

Related: Drug Shortages and Rapid Price Escalation: The Latest on the Crisis

Manage your Protocols: Set up the system so that several medicines are part of the protocol for common problems that paramedics encounter: cardiac arrest, pain management, low blood sugar, heart irregularities, vomiting and seizures.

Perform Active Stock Management: Work with your logistics manager to give the management team timely updates and working with other agencies in the emergency system to expand sources.

Build Partnerships: Collaborate with hospital systems, fellow EMS providers, and regional distributors who might have supplies that you could obtain to make sure your drug box is filled with products that the paramedics can use. This practice may also allow EMS providers to use expired medications when that process is legal, has been forwarded from the state EMS agency and involves the medications that the manufacturer has tested and approved for safety.

Provide Ongoing Just in Time Training for your Personnel Who Need the Information: This process gives confidence to the paramedics and EMTs that must use products that they have not had experience with, and the process is friendly to them.

Support the Quality Management Program: This system of evaluating proper and timely medication usage will point to areas that need support from the management team in education, packaging and positive reinforcement.

Related: Researchers Offer Strategies for Overcoming Drug Shortages

The process is critically important as the coronavirus pandemic has increased the incidence of cardiac arrest, increased the acuity of the patients that EMS is managing and as certain medicines that need to be available for respiratory distress patients are on the shortage list.