How Utah’s Largest Fire/EMS Agency Provides Full Transparency on Controlled Substances

How Utah’s Largest Fire/EMS Agency Provides Full Transparency on Controlled Substances
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Agency Stats:

  • Area of coverage: 400 square miles
  • Population in coverage area: 422,049 residents in 15 municipalities and Salt Lake County
  • Operations: 24 fire stations, 17 engine companies, 7 ladder companies, 13 ambulance crews
  • Incidents: responded to 28,388 emergency incidents in 2019
  • Staff: 694 civilian and sworn; 130 daily minimum staffing
  • Implemented Vector Solutions LMS in 2013; Check It in 2020

How Utah’s Largest Fire/EMS Agency Provides Full Transparency on Controlled Substances

Unified Fire Authority (UFA) is Utah’s largest fire and EMS agency with 694 employees serving an estimated 422,049 residents in 15 municipalities and Salt Lake County. One of the many important responsibilities UFA has is tracking their controlled substances.

It is commonly known the that controlled substances, like fentanyl and ketamine, are widely scrutinized today because of the negative health impact they can have. The “opioid epidemic” has been a common topic in the media for many years and regulatory agencies, like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), have been under pressure to step up their tracking, reporting and accountability of certain narcotics.

Has your agency every been audited by the DEA?

If your agency were to be audited by the DEA, would you be able to provide an accurate account of all your controlled substances from the time of purchase through delivered to patient, including the inventory that has expired or is due for destruction? As the DEA continues to regulate more medical services, if your agency does not have a solid process in place, it is time to seriously consider one before you get on the DEA’s audit list—a list your agency will most likely remain on for a long time.

UFA’S Robust Process to Verify Count Inventory with Check It

UFA has 53 transactions every shift change (which is every other day) to pass the chain of custody from the off-going medic to the oncoming medic. Karla Rickards, an RN and Manager of Controlled Substances with UFA, explained how they have implemented Vector Solution’s Check It to help track and report on their medication inventory and movement to provide full transparency to the DEA or for any disclosure request. Karla said, “We can provide accurate daily readings of where we are on our medications. We know the quantity at each of our 24 stations at any point in time. We record usage, transfer, safe counts, box counts—each with a required double signature since a different person might be involved in the various stages. In total, there are 53 transactions to verify our count inventory and it used to be done on paper with a lot of manual process prior to implementing Check It.”

Prior to Check It, UFA knew when a drug safe was open or closed, but they had no insight into the personnel involved. If a potential diversion occurred, such as tampered or missing vials, UFA now has instant ability to investigate with a full chain of custody and documentation to ensure compliance and accountability.

Automating Supply Deliveries and Medical Equipment Checks

UFA can also place orders through the Check It app directly to their distributorship who deliver to each of the 24 station safes—all of which are registered with the DEA—when inventory needs replenished.

By mid-2021, UFA plans to use Check It to start tracking and managing their medical equipment on their trucks and ambulances. Check it allows them to isolate their controlled substance tracking from their vehicle, apparatus and equipment checks.

More Time Savings and Compliance Ease with Vector’s LMS

UFA also uses the Vector Solutions Learning Management System (LMS). Danial Biorge, Paramedic and EMS Training Specialist with UFA explained that they implemented the LMS in 2013 when it was sold under the TargetSolutions brand. “We use the LMS to assign and track all our training and recertifications for state licensures,” said Danial. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, we started using more distributed training from the 100+ assignments we have built in the LMS. We also use the LMS to distribute internal policy changes, reviews and acknowledgements, along with a monthly Q&A video from the Chief.” With the LMS, UFA can easily track everyone’s trainings and certification status, and use the bulletin board for administrative groups and committees to share documents via the file center.

UFA is a public entity and does not commercially endorse any product or service.

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