Hospital Automates Drug Dispensing
Posted on Friday, December 7th, 2007
Safety from Medication Errors: Hospital pharmacist Dorothy Gourley (l) looks on as Megan Yow, R.N., extracts a patient’s drug from the new dispensing system cabinet.
Mercy Health/Love County installed a computerized drug dispensing system in the hospital in November.
The system adds a layer of protection and accountability to dispensing, stocking, and tracking medications.
“Our fundamental concern is patient safety – to keep patients safe from medication errors,” said pharmacist Dorothy Gourley.
Under the new system, drug room supervisors enter each hospital patient’s medications into a drug room computer. The computer sends the information electronically to a dispensing cabinet at the nurses’ station.
The dispensing cabinet is a sealed unit that cannot be manually opened. Instead, floor nurses call up a patient’s drug profile on a computer workstation attached to the cabinet.
The computer opens only one of the unit’s 72 drawers at a time – the one containing the exact medication and dose required. This eliminates manual selection and with it the opportunity for picking wrong medications.
On the computer monitor, the nurse may also see prompts about the medication, such as “blood pressure reading required,” or “do not crush,” or “too soon to give this drug again.”
The nurse will compare the drug label on the medication pulled from the drawer with the label shown on the computer monitor to be sure the medications match. Finally, before administering the drug, the nurse will compare the drug’s name and dose to the doctor’s written orders for the patient.
An electronic record of the transaction is made. Among other information, the record shows what drug was removed, the drawer and bin from which it came, the name of the nurse who withdrew the medication, and the patient for whom it was ordered.
Only eligible nurses, entering identifying passwords in the cabinet-top keyboard, may extract patients’ medications from the cabinet.
Drug-room supervisors keep the cabinet stocked with up to 400 medications in normal use in the hospital. The cabinet computer keeps inventory.
Nurses and others interviewed last week about the new system like it and pointed out additional pluses.
“It’s convenient, decreases error, and is more time efficient,” said Megan Yow, registered nurse in the emergency room.
Joyce Lantz, R.N., likes the self-inventory aspect of the system. “It has streamlined the end of the day. We used to have to take a narcotics count daily and this required two nurses. Overall, I’m pretty pleased.”
Drug room supervisors Tammy Heath, L.P.N., and Barbara Owen, R.N., monitor the system from day-to-day.
“There is a toll-free number we can call 24 hours a day for technical assistance if we have computer problems,” Heath said.
Owen credited Gourley with locating an affordable system. “Dorothy pushed for this for a long time and Richard (Barker, the hospital administrator) is good about writing grants,” Owen said.
Gourley was the fulltime pharmacist in 1984 when the hospital acquired its first computer. She has watched medical and information technology develop over the years.
“Our new medication dispensing system cost about one-third that of large-hospital systems and the software on which it runs is compatible with the hospital’s computer system for billing and patient information,” she said.