Skip to main content

Proper safeguards while designing and using Automated Dispensing Cabinets can improve safety

September 22nd, 2021
Proper safeguards while designing and using Automated Dispensing Cabinets can improve safety

Since their introduction in hospitals in the late 1980s, Automated Dispensing Cabinets (ADCs) have played a crucial role in decentralizing the medical distribution system. Although the adoption of the technology was slow, by 2008, more than 80% of the hospitals in the United States were using ADCs as their sole dispensing systems.

ADCs offer many advantages over manual floor stock systems that were previously used in hospitals. Some of the benefits include-

  • Controlled substances and other drugs can be electronically tracked
  • Nurses have increased access to the medicines in the patient-care areas, increasing their efficiency
  • ADCs offer a much better inventory control reducing stockout incidents
  • ADCs can decrease the dispensing errors compared to traditional unit dose cassettes
Factors that influence the safety of ADCs

Patient profiling

The ADCs must be linked to the pharmacy computer so that a pharmacist can review the safety of each new medication order for the patient before it is taken out of the cabinet. If this feature is not implemented while designing the ADCs, the nurses won't be alerted for potential unsafe dosages, allergic reactions, or duplicate therapy.

TouchPoint Medical's medDispense® L series ADCs are equipped with our latest dispensing software, medLogic™, that provides high-capacity single item control for improved safety. Our ADCs are also equipped with PharmacyCenter™ reporting software that allows pharmacists to operate multiple ADCs from one easy-to-use dashboard and reporting system.


Being able to override the system even when patient profiling is used can be a great feature, especially when emergency removal of medication is needed. That said, overrides can be easily misused. They can be potentially seen as 'workarounds to access medicines from ADCs. Other workarounds include the removal of medication for more than one patient when the ADC is open.

Insufficient number and wrong placement of ADCs

Yet another area of concern regarding the safety of ADCs is the number and placement of ADCs throughout healthcare facilities. If the number of ADCs is insufficient, the nurses might work around the system and take multiple medications ahead of time to counter the limited access during busy hours. Placing an ADC unit in an ill-lit area or an active area can also lead to errors while reading the screens or labels.

Excessive quantities of drugs

If an ADC has excess amounts of a wide assortment of drugs, the dispensing error rate might be increased. However, this problem can be fixed by profiling each ADC in the facility to the main pharmacy computer.

Although stocking is primarily the pharmacist's function, nurses return unused doses to the ADCs, increasing errors. TouchPoint Medical ADCs can be equipped with bar-coding technology to keep a check on the types of errors. If medications that look or sound alike are stored next to each other, mistakes can also happen during dispensing and restocking.

The ISMP recommends that ADCs with minimal bypasses should be used. Such systems have safety that is on par with other single-unit dispensing methods. The ISMP finalized guidelines to promote safe practices while using ADCs in health care facilities back in 2008.

In Conclusion

It is important to pay close attention to the safety of an ADC system. With the implementation of ADCs in healthcare facilities, the redundant checking system of traditional dispensing methods involving pharmacy technicians, pharmacists, and nurses no longer exists. Consequently, the ADCs your facility uses must be equipped with the proper controls and software to minimize dispensing errors.

For TouchPoint Medical, safety is of paramount importance when it comes to the design of our ADCs. With our medDispense® automated dispensing cabinets and AccessRx Series of medication delivery carts, we ensure that you can exercise proper controls and have a safe and efficient system for your facility.

Our technicians are available round-the-clock to help you pick the right solution that meets your specific clinical needs. You can contact us 24/7 for inquiries, product information, demonstration, and any other pertinent questions.