Care quality affected by drug, equipment shortages, survey says

Ongoing drug shortages throughout the last year in many cases have forced healthcare leaders to change or compromise aspects of patient care. More than 60% of healthcare professionals have reported shortages of 20 drugs, single-use supplies, or other medical devices in 2023. Now, pharmacists, nurses and providers are speaking out.

According to a survey of 200 healthcare professionals conducted by ECRI and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, 74% of respondents said the ongoing drug shortages have affected quality the most in surgery and anesthetics. Just below that, 64% reported emergency care being negatively affected by the shortages; 52% said it has disrupted pain management; 45% report cardiology care being affected; 44% said hematology and oncology, 39% report infectious disease care being affected; and 37% reported changes in obstetrics and gynecology care as a result. 

In many cases, these shortages have led to delays in care, postponed treatments and changed pain management plans. 

"The extent to which medication, supply, and equipment shortages are negatively impacting patient care is inexcusable," Rita Jew, PharmD, president of ISMP stated in an Oct. 13 news release. "While pharmacies and hospitals can triage shortages short-term, we need long-term, nationally coordinated solutions to solve the persistent shortages we've witnessed repeatedly over the last several years."

Other notable findings from the survey include:

  • Forty-nine percent of respondents reported that drug shortages have caused them to delay patient procedures and treatments.

  • Additionally, 32% of respondents reported not being able to provide patients with the recommended drugs for their condition.

  • Twenty-one percent reported that due to the shortages, a patient had to receive a less effective drug.

  • Adverse outcomes, like infections, due to the shortages were reported by 5% of respondents. 

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