UT Medical Center replacing medication dispensing machines

March 12, 2009 | News
By Jim Winkler

The University of Toledo Medical Center is replacing its current automated medication dispensing machines from which nurses obtain most of the medications they give to patients with new ones.

Manufactured by McKesson Corp., a San Francisco-based health information and technology company, the new machines will replace ones manufactured by Pyxis Corp. and are expected to be installed and up and running by the end of March, according to Joel Tavormina, hospital pharmacy director.

The dispensing machines are located at each nursing station. About 85 percent of hospital formulary medications, which number more than 2,000, are in the machines.

The hospital also intends later this year to install automated packaging equipment, bar-coding technology and a medication carousel in its pharmacy. Eventually medication doses will be enclosed in packages stamped with bar codes and placed in the carousel.

The new approach means added protection to make sure patients get correct medications.

“We’re very excited about the new automation,” Tavormina said. “It will be very accurate in dispensing medications and incorporates numerous safeguards to ensure the right medication is dispensed in the right dose to the right patient at the right time.”

Tavormina said the new McKesson machines operate much like machines manufactured by Pxyis, but are safer because medications are in covered compartments, not open drawers.

“Right now physicians’ orders are either faxed to the pharmacy or picked up by our decentralized pharmacists and then entered on to each patient’s medication profile,” Tavormina explained. “Nurses remove medications from the automatic dispensing machine using a password and their fingerprint identification for security reasons.”

With the new machines, when medications are ready to be dispensed, lids open on the compartments to show where the drug is stored.

“This reduces the possibility of picking out the wrong medication,” Tavormina said.

When the bar-coding equipment is installed, nurses and other caregivers will scan with portable, hand-held devices medications with bar codes similar to those used in supermarkets, along with patients’ bar-coded identification bracelets to ensure the right medication dose is being administered to the correct patient at the correct time. If something is amiss — such as the medication or dosage being incorrect for that patient — a message indicating a mismatch will flash across the scanner’s display screen.

The new machines also will automatically generate reports to alert pharmacists when medications need to be replenished.

Automated dispensing and bar coding are the wave of the future because they improve patient safety by reducing the potential for human error, according to Tavormina. Medication errors are an important issue. The Institute of Medicine estimates that more than 7,000 people die each year because of mix-ups in hospitals nationwide.

In addition, automated dispensing improves patient care by freeing pharmacists to do other tasks like checking drug interactions. Many UT Medical Center patients take multiple medications, and pharmacists need to make sure drugs don’t interact negatively.

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