Omnicell System Streamlines Medication Management


New technology is helping patients, nurses, and pharmacists alike.

Southcoast Health is launching Omnicell’s medication management and analytics system across its inpatient and outpatient facilities in southern Massachusetts. The goal is to improve patient care, improve operating efficiency, and reduce costs.

One of the positives we are acquiring is greater visibility of the drug inventory throughout the system,” said Jack Evans, MS, MBA, Executive Director of Pharmacy Services for the three-hospital system. “Prescribed medication will be more efficiently available for administration, cut down on the time needed to manage drug administration, and decrease our inventory. It will make a difference for our patients, our nursing staff, and the pharmacy.

The current medication management system does not perform poorly, Evans continued, but it has multiple inefficiencies built in. Nurses must go to a central station to pull up medication information, then to the drug room to pick up the medications, then back to the patient to administer them.

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“Anywhere RN, one of the features in the new Omnicell system, lets nurses be at the patient bedside, on the phone with a physician or anywhere else in the facility to queue up medications,” said Tonya Johnson RN, DNP, Associate Chief Nursing Officer at Southcoast Health’s St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, MA. “The efficiency of the new workflow is incredible. We can be with a patient, queue up a med, and it’s ready to go when we get to the Omnicell cabinet.”

How much time nurses will save is not clear, but site visits to hospitals using the system suggested major time savings. Omnicell points to a 2012 installation at Great River Medical Center in Burlington, IA, that cut patient medication delivery time from 90 minutes to 30 minutes and cut pharmacy inventory in half.

“This system gives hospitals intraoperability between Omnicell and their EPIC electronic medical record,” said Ed Bisaga, Pharmacy Consultant for Omnicell. “Pharmacy, nursing, providers, and other users see a single system that passes data between their EPIC EMR and their Omnicell system.”

Older medication management systems can initiate and process restocking orders with wholesalers efficiently enough, Evans said, but ordering is based on anticipated utilization. Inventory buffers reduce the potential for out-of-stock items, but also inflate inventory and related costs. Omnicell links wholesaler orders to actual inventory.

“We expect to see inventory savings because the Omnicell system reduces those buffers and reorders based on actual patient administration,” Evans said. “We also expect to see the pharmacy staff more involved in inventory control and for purchasing to become much more efficient as we’re better able to monitor the available data coming out of the system. We will be making more rational and more cost-effective purchasing decisions.”

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The new system also helps further close the loop on medication administration. Every authorized user has a unique personal ID, as does every patient and medication dose. Bedside bar code scanning matches patient, medication, and administration time.

A label printer built into each dispensing cabinet lets nurses label doses pulled from bulk containers such as an insulin injection taken from a multidose vial.

“When you get the labeled syringe to the bedside, you scan the patient, scan the syringe and administer the dose,” Johnson said. “Every administration is recorded in the EMR and fed back to the pharmacy. It closes the loop in medication administration, something we have never had before.”

More importantly, she said, the new system will free up staff time in both nursing and pharmacy.

“Making the process more efficient lets us maximize the time we spend with patients,” she said. “Too often, technology ends up puling us away from patients. This system gives us more time to spend on those human relationships.”  

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