Artificial intelligence (AI) could drastically impact the rate by which drugs go missing from hospitals according to research that found more than half of managers’ confidence improved due to use of AI-based diversion detection programs.

Research, published by information and software firm Wolters Kluwer, found that 53 per cent of participants who used AI in their detection of drug diversion, were confident that these same programs were effective.

Drug diversion refers to the illegal redirection of prescription drugs away from their intended clinical use. This can take the form of medical staff using prescription medicines themselves or taking them to sell for personal gain. The International Health Facility Diversion Association estimates that at least 37,000 diversion incidents occur in U.S. facilities each year.

Vice president and general manager of clinical surveillance compliance & data solutions at Wolters Kluwer Health, Karen Kobelski, detailed how the problem has been exacerbated by the use of temporary and contract staff in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Kobelski added: “Given the risks to patient safety and clinical teams, as well as the potential reputational and financial impact on the hospital itself, hospital leadership should consider how sophisticated technology can keep these programs running smoothly.”

Titled “The State of Drug Diversion 2023 Report”, the survey also found that 71 per cent of respondents claimed that their drug diversion teams will spend around eight hours on each investigation, impacting their ability to effectively tackle the problem.

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The survey was published by Wolters Kluwer but produced by Eliciting Insights. It queried 100 healthcare professionals in the US, in a bid to understand the confidence facilities had in their anti-drug diversion systems, with and without the implementation of AI tools.

Initially, in 2019 the survey found that only 29 per cent of respondents used AI tracking in order to flag potential cases of drug diversion, whereas the 2023 results show that the use of these tools has nearly doubled, with 56 per cent of respondents now utilising AI. Of those who use AI tools, more than half were confident that their results were effective in limiting the loss of prescription drugs.

Ms Kobelski continued: “Hospitals don’t always have the staff to dedicate to an ongoing diversion detection program as they balance more acute patient needs. AI-based diversion detection programs can do the hard work of sifting through mountains of data to find suspect cases so resource-strapped hospitals can run an effective program and ensure diversion is detected.”