eMAR: Frequently asked questions

What is eMAR?

eMAR (or Electronic Medication Administration Record) is the digital alternative to a paper MAR chart. MAR charts (Medication Administration Records) or MAR sheets are used throughout the health and social care industry, including within home care, to record details of any medication that a person takes whilst receiving care.

What is a MAR chart?

A MAR chart is a person’s permanent record of their medication, including drugs administered. MAR stands for Medication Administration Record, and it is a paper form, as opposed to eMAR, which is a digital record.

What does eMAR stand for?

eMAR stands for Electronic Medication Administration Record. The acronym is used widely in health and social care to refer to electronic patient record systems that are used to document information about medications, rather than using a paper form.

What is an eMAR system?

An eMAR system is a piece of software or technology that enables care workers to record electronically the details of any medications they have given to a person they are caring for. Most electronic medication administration systems are cloud-based. To use eMAR software, care workers need to have access to a suitable device, such as a computer or smartphone phone, and a connection to the internet.

What is the purpose of eMAR software?

eMAR is used to automate medication administration by digitising MAR charts. By using eMAR software, care workers can update MAR sheets automatically, meaning that care organisations can see an accurate view of a person’s medications in real-time.

How does eMAR work?

eMAR is used to make medication administration easier and more efficient for all involved. Its introduction has made a significant change to the health and care industry over the last decade, helping to improve processes, eliminate errors, and reduce risk.

Typically, a care coordinator will create a medication schedule for a client within an eMAR system, with specific instructions about the medication required. This will include types of medication, dosage, frequency and how drugs are to be administered.

That information is then pushed from the electronic medication system automatically to a care worker’s mobile device, for them to view when they attend a home care visit. This gives care workers access to information about medications that they can be sure are accurate and up to date.

During the course of the visit, care support workers can use their mobile devices to record when medication is administered and add any relevant notes, such as the medication being refused and the reason why. This information is automatically added to the MAR chart.

With eMAR, these notes are synched immediately with the office’s care management to review and sign off, so care agencies have a full and accurate picture of all medications in real time. Some systems will even trigger alerts if there is an issue with important medication. For example, Unique IQ’s IQ:timecard software will prevent a carer from clocking out of their visit if they fail to log that mandatory medication has been given, and the care manager on duty will receive a notification by email or text.

Thanks to all of the data being held together in one centralised system, care organisations can quickly produce reports to show evidence of their care, spot trends and save time searching documents for specific medications and information.

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What are the benefits of eMAR?

Using an eMAR system has several benefits.

Fewer errors – information about required medications is kept continuously up-to-date with an eMAR system, so care support workers always have the most recent information about the drugs they need to administer. Recording notes electronically also reduces the number of mistakes caused by ineligible handwriting.

Improved safety – the reduction in errors leads directly to improved safety for the person being cared for. Alerts about mandatory medication also prevent essential drugs from being missed.

Real-time monitoring – making medication administration records electronic means that care organisations can see an accurate picture of a person’s care at any one time, rather than having to wait until the end of the month to review a paper MAR sheet that’s been collected from a client’s home.

Less paperwork – using an electronic system reduces the amount of paperwork as many pieces of information can be pre-populated from data held elsewhere in the system. For example, dosages can be preset for a particular type of medication, rather than having to check and write out an instruction every time a drug is required. It is also much faster to tick off medications and type or dictate notes into a mobile app, than fill in a paper form by hand.

Greater security – storing information within the cloud and granting access according to a set of centralised permissions provides a much higher level of security than keeping paper forms within a folder in a client’s home or transporting them between visits. When using eMAR, there is a much lower risk of information being lost, damaged or seen by someone it shouldn’t be, as all data is centrally controlled by the care manager.

Reporting and evidence – keeping information about medications in a central eMAR system makes it much easier to generate reports that show the care which has been given, any issues and the action taken. Reports can be produced quickly for the purposes of compliance, as well as to provide insights into the functioning of a home care organisation.

Are there any problems with eMAR?

From our own experience, a lack of confidence in using technology is the main reason for most concerns about introducing eMAR into a care business. However, eMAR is very easy to use, so much so, Unique IQ has care workers in their late sixties who confidently use the system daily.

Some of the perceived barriers to eMAR that come up include:

  • needing a smartphone app
  • concerns about the amount of mobile data that might be used by an internet-based system
  • keeping smartphones up to date so that the system functions correctly
  • whether the data is kept safe and secure
  • using a phone being seen as impersonal by the person receiving care

In practice, these barriers are quickly overcome by managing how eMAR is introduced into a home care organisation. Having a pilot period, good internal communication, clear user guides, eMAR champions throughout your business, and taking care support workers on the journey to eMAR with you, all help to make it an easy transition from paper processes to electronic medication systems.

Is data held within eMAR safe?

Typically, data held with a cloud-based eMAR system is safer and more secure than paper-based equivalents stored in filing cabinets, client homes and transported between locations.

Access to electronic records is restricted, with users needing to be granted authorisation, along with a username and password. The data itself is protected in the cloud by firewalls and other online security protocols. Here at Unique IQ, our systems are accessed only through permitted devices and users. The devices are registered with us via a nominated telephone number to ensure secure access to client data at all times.

Find out more about data security in home care

Does eMAR improve service user/patient safety?

Using eMAR helps to promote patient safety and welfare. Medication administration is one of the biggest risk factors within the care of a client, especially those within the home care sector, who rely on accurate information being supplied to their care support worker.

Prompts can be used to remind care support workers to administer mandatory and PRN medication. Alerts can also be sent to notify them of changes to the medication type or dosage, or changes of circumstances surrounding their client – such as a cancelled appointment.

Using eMAR helps to keep patient safety the highest priority, reducing the risk of missed or incorrect dosages, or worse – repeating medication administration.

Care support workers can also provide feedback and notes based on their visit, such as the medication being refused, and the reason why. With eMAR, these notes can be sent immediately to head office who can record the details on the client’s care plan and records; such vital detail can be helpful when considering future care plans.

Does eMAR reduce medication errors?

Paper-based MAR charts can cause greater risk to both the client and their care support worker. Issues such as misunderstanding a colleague’s handwriting, lost documents, outdated paperwork, and lack of data can all lead to incorrect or missed medication.

Unlike paper-based MAR charts, eMAR has a much higher rate of accuracy, with fewer errors experienced by users. As the information is electronically stored and accessed through one system, it limits editing and accidental deletion of medication records. In the event an error is made, the care support worker can communicate directly with the head office informing them of the issue. In real-time, the incorrect data can be corrected and updated with notes regarding the outcome, storing a full history of the error and actions taken.

How can eMAR help me?

eMAR helps to reduce the risk of medication errors, saves time and streamlines processes, all helping to improve the day-to-day tasks for everyone.

Using an eMAR system can be an efficient and effective tool for your care business and can help to:

  • reduce the risk of medication errors
  • provide a complete medication history
  • save time for care support workers, helping them to spend more time with their clients
  • streamline processes
  • give clients peace of mind their personal information is secure
  • strengthen communication between care support workers and office

Over the last decade, eMAR has grown in popularity throughout the care sector, and we are seeing more and more home care agencies adopting this kind of digital solution.

How quickly can I change to an eMAR system?

eMAR system can be up and running at the click of a button, giving care agencies immediate access to digital MAR charts. However, here at Unique IQ we recommend a steady transition away from paper records, piloting with a few carers, to begin with before fully rolling out the full eMAR system. With our client support team on hand to assist from day one, we provide free training sessions and demonstrations, to ensure you are confident in using the system, helping to make the change as smooth as possible.

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