Automated Dispensing - A Safer Healthcare Facility

Published: 24th May 2011
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Automated Dispensing - A Safer Healthcare Facility

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies estimates that preventable medication errors result in more than 7,000 deaths each year in hospitals and tens of thousands more in outpatient facilities like nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. That’s nearly 20 every day.

Studies have shown that medical dispensing errors at hospitals and other healthcare facilities can be reduced with an automated medication cabinet.

An automated medication cabinet reduces dispensing errors by

  • Streamlining the dispensing process. When a caregiver selects a patient’s name on the screen, the system directs them to the correct drawer and pocket.

  • Alerts warn of potential medication errors. Automatic patient-specific medication alerts and warnings about dangerous dose levels and drug combinations give caregivers the information they need to prevent injury, an adverse drug reaction, or even death.

  • Scanning bar codes for accuracy. Barcodes for each medication can be scanned upon dispensing and restock, adding an extra layer of safety.

  • Incorporating drug information. Caregivers have the ability to research information about the drug to be dispensed right on the automated dispensing cabinet, adding another level of verification.


While automated medication cabinets help hospitals and other institutions fulfill their number 1 priority –  patient safety – they deliver other benefits as well:

  • Medication Security. Only authorized caregivers with a secure login name and password can access medications in a hospital’s automation dispensing cabinet. Systems incorporating ID badge bar codes and fingerprint scans (biometric ID) add extra layers of security. Cabinets that store controlled substances can be equipped with extra security measures.

  • Improved efficiency. Caregivers can be authorized to access medications stored in multiple automated cabinets and auxiliary locations throughout the hospital. If a medication is not available in one cabinet, the system will indicate where it can be found elsewhere. 

  • Reporting and tracking. Automated cabinets record all actions with the cabinet, making it easy to monitor, track, and evaluate dispensing throughout a healthcare facility.

  • Integration with other systems. Automated cabinets can be part of pharmacy systems.   When a cabinet runs low on a medication, for example, it can automatically report the shortage to the pharmacy. Likewise, the pharmacy can incorporate information from automated cabinets into their ordering systems.

  • Customization. Cabinet needs in an medical-surgical unit will be much different than those of an emergency department. Each cabinet can be customized to fit the unique needs of each area of the hospital.


Is your healthcare facility safe? Consider purchasing automated cabinets as a way of reducing dispensing errors and increasing efficiency – both of which can lead to safer patients.


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