Automated Dispensing Systems -- One High-Tech Solution


Health system pharmacies that require large-scale deployment of automated dispensing cabinets are faced with multiple challenges. Here's one solution.

Health system pharmacies that require large-scale deployment of automated dispensing cabinets are faced with multiple challenges.

In a rapidly changing technology environment, features such as touch screen, a variety of cabinet configurations, innovative drawer design, and increased responsiveness, are essential to facing those challenges.

Duke University Hospital in Durham, NC, turned to Omnicell’s XT series automated dispensing system when it needed to deploy cabinets in five areas of the hospital.

“We have deployed various cabinet types into five different places that are very different in terms of patient population. We will have an additional series of cabinets coming in the early part of 2017,” said Matt Kelm, PharmD, MHA, Manager Unit Dose Distribution, Department of Pharmacy.

The hospital has Omnicell XT automated dispensing cabinets located in the pulmonary and radiology units, endoscopy procedural area, cardiac stress test unit, and in the lab. “We have one cabinet inside our IV clean room where we use automated dispensing cabinets to manage high-risk or high-cost medications as well as controlled substances,” said Kelm.

Kelm said that a key feature of the redesigned system is an increased capacity that allows for 30% more medications in the same footprint as the old design.

Another plus is the new drawer configuration. “[Omnicell] developed innovative drawer designs that has made it much more effective for us as a customer in terms of right-sizing the pockets that are available, and we found the new locking bins to be superior to the prior product,” said Kelm. The new cabinet is more responsive and faster, he added.

According to Omnicell, the XT series includes automated medication and supply dispensing cabinets, Anesthesia Workstation, and Controlled Substance Manager. The system is fully integrated with Connect-Rx from Aesynt, allowing customers who use AcuDose-Rx cabinets to use the new hardware without changing their software and server infrastructure. Connect-Rx is a common technology platform that integrates automation and information technology across systems.

Touch screen technology

Kelm noted that he is impressed by the responsiveness of the touch screen, which is a change from the older pressure-style system, and is similar to working on a smart phone.

“That’s been a noticeable improvement for us, along with the lighting of the cabinet that is much better, brighter and easy to see.” The upgraded XT series has had a positive impact on patient care and staff efficiency, according to Kelm.

“From a patient-care perspective, our role is to support the care nurse. The easier we can make a medication pass for the care nurse, the better for the patient. With this increased capacity, we have the ability to have more diversity of line items stocked in the cabinet – that means more meds on the unit at the nurse’s fingertips,” said Kelm.

Kelm said that the new system also makes it easier for the care nurse when medications are stored in a single location because if the nurse is getting the drug out of an automated dispensing cabinet he is not looking across multiple places to find the drug that has come from pharmacy; it’s in one place now. That’s something that the pharmacy staff has been actively studying from a pharmacy efficiency standpoint, he said.

“We have a study we’re doing right now  to see whether these new configurations are improving  the time it takes the pharmacy technician to restock the cabinet.”

Kelm said that the fundamental redesign of the Omnicell XT cabinet will also make maintenance easier.

Less time managing meds/cost reduction

Kim Howland, Vice President of Global Product Development for Omnicell, said customers want to spend less time managing their medications and their supplies and want to cut costs.

“For us, we started thinking about our old hardware. You were very connected to the cabinet and most of the work had to be done at the cabinet. Today people are used to using handheld smartphones so we started thinking about ways we could get some of the labor away from the cabinet,” said Howland.

Automated dispensing marketplace

The market, according to Howland, is being driven more by the requests of customers to make a product easier to use and less by vendor consolidation.

“We’re starting to see care move outside the four walls of the hospital and to alternative sites. The consolidation of health care systems and the sites of care, is really driving more of our change. We have to have our solutions be more flexible and adaptive.”

Anthony Vecchione is the Executive Editor of Drug Topics.

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