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Can Automated Dispensing Cabinets Serve as a Reliable Source of Secondary Patient Data?

December 14th, 2021
Can Automated Dispensing Cabinets Serve as a Reliable Source of Secondary Patient Data?

Automated Dispensing Cabinets (ADCs) have played a crucial role in improving patient care and inventory control in hospitals since their introduction in the 1980s. Not only have ADCs shown to increase patient safety by reducing dispensing errors, but they also have the potential to become an expedient source of retrospective data collection.

Drug utilization researchers routinely obtain secondary data by reviewing the patients' medical records for retrospective patient-related research. Such records are crucial for deciding the line of treatment after emergency care has been administered. While traditional medical records are seen as the 'gold standard for such data collection, the records in patients' charts are subject to errors, omissions, and conflicting data. Pouring through the traditional medical records is also a labor-intensive and expensive process.

ADCs can help solve this problem by streamlining the data recording and retrieving process. However, the agreement between the traditional medical record review and data obtained from ADDs must be evaluated to assess the value of ADCs as a vital secondary data source.

What does the research reveal?

The research exploring the extent of agreement between traditional medical records and data generated by ADCs has been limited. Any discrepancy between the logs generated by the ADCs and traditional paper-based records must be eliminated before ADCs can be considered a reliable source of secondary data.

Unfortunately, a few studies conducted have revealed a high discrepancy rate. For instance, a study published in Anesthesia and Analgesia revealed a 15% discrepancy rate. In another small case study published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, the discrepancy rate was 6.9%.

However, both studies were later found to have significant data entry errors that might have contributed to the high disagreement rate between paper-based and ADC-generated records. 

What might be the reasons for discrepancies in the literature?

Much attention has been given to finding the reasons for finding such high discrepancy rates between the two types of patient records. Some of the probable reasons include-

  • Medication is withdrawn under the wrong patient’s name
  • Medication is removed but not administered to the patient
  • Medications returned to the cabinet without a correction in the inventory record
  • Prescriptions dispensed without a written physician's order

The situation can get trickier in emergency care departments where the staff has to expedite the medication access while implementing inventory control strategies. Such a demanding environment might cause the nursing staff to circumvent the device controls leading to inventory errors.

In many situations, the nursing staff might override the patient identification entry to access the medication faster.

What can be done to improve the reliability of the ADC records?

There is much to be gained by establishing methods to ensure a strong agreement between the paper-based and ADC-generated patient data. The electronic data generated by the ADC units can eliminate the potential for errors associated with data abstraction and translation. Besides, a lot of time and financial resources can be saved. Furthermore, the ADCs can generate aggregated, de-identified data that can be a crucial asset to identify the areas for quality improvement.

ADC records can be a great asset for hospitals and health care institutes to gain an insight into drug utilization and patient care. However, steps must be taken to improve the agreement between this data and the traditional paper-based data.

Approaches must be undertaken to minimize the discrepancies and establish ADC records as a vital secondary data source. Some of the suggested ways this can be done include-

  • Training of the staff in the proper use of the ADC systems
  • Implementation of advanced inventory management protocols
  • Selecting ADC systems that have integrated custom software for improved record-keeping
In conclusion

ADDs can serve as an easy, reliable, and efficient secondary data source compared to the traditional paper-based system. Implementing the ADC technology can also improve the agreement between the paper-based and ADD-generated data.

TouchPoint Medicals is committed to providing the healthcare industry with state-of-the-art equipment, including the medDispense® automated dispensing cabinets and AccessRx Series of medication delivery carts.

You can schedule a demo, ask any questions you might have, or get product quotes by getting in touch with us by clicking here.