Medication usage in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) is often vital to the curative treatment efforts of doctors and nurses.


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Medications are used for a seemingly endless number of medical concerns, and with so many prescription drugs in a small area, medication safety is of the utmost importance in treatment facilities.

Traditionally, dispensing medicine in a hospital or SNF environment was handled through an on-site pharmacy. These pharmacies would receive orders from doctors on various floors, and a courier would either deliver the medications throughout the facility or nurses would need to pick up orders and return them to the patient at bedside.

A medication dispenser can also be used in smaller hospitals where common medications are made available through a sign-out procedure.

Credit: NIAID

A Computerized Medication Cabinet Can Improve Patient Safety And Facility Efficiency

While the above methods have worked for many decades, they tend to introduce the potential for human error and simple oversight.

As connected technology has become more integral in medical facilities and hospital pharmacies, electronic medication cabinet technology utilizing medication database and registry solutions is beginning to see integration across the country.

These systems work by allowing doctors to enter orders into a hospital’s electronic health records database. From there, the order is either filled by the pharmacy and placed in an electronic medication dispenser or an existing automated medication dispenser already containing the medication is notified.

Attending staff are alerted as to where the medication is to be dispensed on each floor, allowing doctors, nurses and specialists to use a dispenser and input the patient’s information to obtain the prescription.

This process automatically registers that the medication was picked up and by whom. When the medication is administered, a nurse will scan the bar code located on the patient’s hospital ID bracelet to confirm identity and to log the administration of the medication into the hospital’s pharmacy register and electronic medical records.

The Omnicell Machine, BD Pyxis And Other Automated Dispensing Cabinets

While some medication cabinets are stationary, other solutions are mobile. For example, the Omnicell XT Automated Dispensing Cabinet is a mobile dispensing machine that includes a variety of safety features, including metal locking-lid drawers and an onboard label printer to coordinate medications and patients against physicians’ orders.

The BD Pyxis MedBank line of products is another solution that features enhanced security through inventory control technology. When using MedBank solutions, medications are stored inside locking cabinets and drawers until security measures have been satisfied.

MedBank solutions also integrate with other BD Pyxis system components for a more comprehensive healthcare experience. The company produces an IV Prep station, medical software and database solutions as well as supply technologies that tie a facility’s operations together for greater patient safety and level of treatment.

Is Automatic Medicine Dispensing Safer?

As safety is so important when it comes to prescription medication chain-of-command and administration in an inpatient environment, the security of machines involved in dispensing medications must be a top priority.

One study from 2009 demonstrated that these solutions do tend to improve safety and security for both patients and caregivers, and they may also protect medical facilities from certain legal liabilities as well.

A computerized medication cabinet reduces the potential for error, but it also reduces the potential for intentional theft and deception.

Since medications are only available from these machines when strict criteria have been met and digital security measures have been satisfied, they produce fewer instances of impropriety on the part of doctors, nurses and other facility staff members who may have ill intentions.

When an automated medication dispenser is combined with a regulatory system incorporated throughout a facility or a healthcare system, checks and balances can be put into place to avoid the wrong medications being administered to the wrong patients.

Credit: Dominik Scheid

Furthermore, dosing schedules can be tightly controlled, and dosage monitoring along with dosing history can be checked from smart devices remotely.

This allows doctors to provide more comprehensive care to multiple patients using smartphones and tablets on a secure network

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