In complex healthcare environments, avoiding medication errors requires appropriate processes and strict adherence to procedures by all who handle prescription drugs. It goes without saying that the risks associated with any mistake related to prescribing, dispensing or administering medication can be very dangerous and potentially devastating. But mistakes do happen, sometimes unbeknownst to professionals and the patients they treat. For some context, one study of parenteral medication administration errors conducted over 24 hours in 113 intensive care units across 27 countries found that errors occurred at a rate of 74.5 events per 100 patient days.
Common factors that precipitate errors include inadequate written communication (prescriptions, documentation, transcription), supply/storage problems, staff workload and patient acuity. But unlike random adverse reactions which are often unpreventable, the most common types of medication errors are avoidable, especially with Automatic Dispensing Cabinets (ADCs).
ADCs, widely available and diverse in their designs, are proving to be an essential tool for safe, secure and accurate handling of medication. It is expected that they easily integrate with bar code scanning protocols. And in environments where space is limited, but security is still important—think operating, sub-acute, trauma and hospice centers—countertop models make valuable ADC technology easily accessible. Size is often of particular interest to the sub-acute market where portability and security are essential, and ADC technology is more accessible than ever. In fact, countertop ADCs offer all the security and safety of a larger cabinet with the benefits of a smaller footprint—easily accessible to professionals working in all types of healthcare settings.
Powered by industry-leading dispensing software, ADCs come in multiple configurations and typically incorporate 10+ drawer sizes to accommodate all types of medication. Nurses and other authorized professionals use unique logins to access unit screens where they can review patient information and prescriptions before requesting appropriate types and doses. Because they interact directly with pharmacy information systems, they can be set so that ADCs display specific drugs and dosages for individual patients only after they’ve been verified by a pharmacist. And administering staff members are immediately made aware of duplicate therapies, contraindications, unsafe dosing, potential allergies and other important information before retrieving medication for their patients.
Easy-to-follow prompts make accessing the correct prescriptions easy for healthcare professionals often in rushed and high-stress situations. ADCs ensure that the right medication is quickly located with illuminated drawers that light up when medication is ready to dispense. Visual on-screen cues match real-time actions as drawers open, close and dispense medication. Or the cabinet can be one that is a single item dispensing and a single dose dispensing cabinet which increases safety even more because only that one drug is made available to the nurse or healthcare professional extracting the medication. When controlled drugs are accessed, ADCs should require users to complete blind counts to verify there are no inventory discrepancies. All these baked-in tools help to greatly reduce picking errors and eliminate the need for busy medical professionals to take time out for double-checking with colleagues before giving medication to patients.
To add an extra layer of protection against human error, safety advocates are strongly calling for five-letter searching to become standard. The reasoning: using three or fewer letters to search for mediations will inevitably call up a greater number of possible medications to choose from and has been linked to instances where hospital staff administered or nearly administered incorrect drugs. As expected, major players in the ADC arena are listening. And by the end of the year, key suppliers will offer solutions with at least the option to configure cabinets to require five letters, if not more.
Along with powerful safety checks related to everyday clinical use, today’s leading ADCs provide advanced features that allow for greater control over staff access to specific medications. Using custom or pre-configured security levels, healthcare facilities can assign nurses and other professionals accordingly to ensure they can only open drawers with medication they’re authorized to handle. For top-level insight into commonly administered medication, individual user activity and more, look for a wide variety of reports from your ADC vendor.
On the pharmacy side, keeping inventory filled and up-to-date has never been easier than with the assistance of ADCs. The most well-appointed models include designated screens for restocking, adding medications, deleting old prescriptions and expiration date tracking. Pharmacy-specific reports keep clinics and their connected pharmacies on the same page—delivering added safeguards for patients and professionals.
For more information on the latest ADC models available from TouchPoint Medical—complete with software that’s more intuitive and easier to use than any competitive option out there—request a demo from one of our skilled associates. Our demos can be given in-person or virtually.