Storing medications properly is crucial for the patient taking them. Some drugs require refrigeration. In such instances, the refrigerator needs to be up to JCAHO standards to ensure the safety and quality of the product. The JCAHO provides accreditation and certification to health care facilities and hospitals. Their standards must be maintained for a facility to attain and keep its credentials.
The refrigerator and freezer temperatures keep chilled medications from spoiling. According to "Infection Control in Home Care and Hospice" by Emily Rhinehart, et al., the refrigerator must maintain a tight range of 38 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and the freezer must be lower than 4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some recommend a penny and cup test for determining temperature control. The penny test requires a penny to be set on top of a frozen cup of water in the freezer, and if the penny sinks, it indicates a temperature failure. The Joint Commission notes that this is not acceptable. Instead, install a refrigerator or freezer thermometer with an alarm to signal if the temperature goes out of range. While a daily temperature log for the refrigerator is not required by the standards. Keeping track of the temperature is a way to comply with the standards requirement of daily monitoring of equipment.
Medications stored in the refrigerator or freezer must all be fresh. Dispose of expired medications properly. Drug water programs are available in many communities to do this, but never pour expired drugs down the sink or toilet or put them into the garbage.
When storing drugs in a refrigerator, only medications can be kept inside. A sign on the front of the door should indicate that the refrigerator is for drug storage only and no food, drink, blood or other materials can be kept inside. The interior of the refrigerator needs to be regularly cleaned to maintain a high standard of cleanliness.
- The Compliance Guide to the JCAHO's Medication Management Standards; Michael R. Hoying
- Infection Control in Home Care and Hospice; Emily Rhinehart, et al.
- Joint Commission: Standards FAQs Temperature Log
- Joint Commission: Standards FAQs "Penny in a Cup"
- Joint Commission International Accreditation Standards for Clinical Laboratories; JCAHO
Athena Hessong began her freelance writing career in 2004. She draws upon experiences and knowledge gained from teaching all high-school subjects for seven years. Hessong earned a Bachelor in Arts in history from the University of Houston.