Automated Dispensing Units Improve Medication Safety

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New automated dispensing units for medication needs are improving safety and patient care at Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC).

Both hospital sites recently wrapped up a years-in-the-making project to fund, install and implement state-of-the-art medication dispensing cabinets that support smarter, safer medication management for both nursing and pharmacy staff, and ultimately the patients we care for.

Automated dispensing units (ADUs) reduce medication errors and improve quality of care. They enhance medication safety by requiring the verification of the patient and medication to be withdrawn with the order, then, using smart drawer technology, only those medications ordered to the patient at that time are available to the nurse to administer. ADUs are also able to track expiry dates, usage, and refill amounts, which also increases efficiency and improves inventory management for the pharmacy.

In addition, ADUs support compliance with numerous Ontario College of Pharmacists and several provincial and federal regulatory criteria as well as accreditation standards, and specifically those relating to the narcotic security, the auditability and traceability of drugs, and the control of supply and use of medications.

Funded by the generosity of donors giving to Huntsville Hospital Foundation and South Muskoka Hospital Foundation, the project included 13 dispensing cabinets across both sites customized to the inpatients units, surgical services, and Emergency Departments where they have been installed.

This $1.6 million pharmacy automation project also includes the future implementation this fall of unit dose packagers that prepackage oral tablet and capsule medications and are interfaced with the ADUs, supporting a more efficient and less manual packaging process by pharmacy staff.

“At MAHC, we continuously strive to keep up with industry, pharmacy and accreditation standards for dispensing medications and overall safe medication management,” says President & CEO Natalie Bubela. “Ultimately, these cabinets and their advanced technology ensure we get the right medications to the right patient safely in the shortest amount of time. We are so grateful for the community giving that has enabled us to obtain this important equipment and keep pace with pharmacy technology that supports safer care.”

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