An automated dispensing cabinet provides certainty in the administration of medicine

Published 26th of June 2018

Working as a nurse in an intensive care unit is hectic and demanding. The work requires rapid reactions and acute medication – and you cannot afford any mistakes. When there is no time to waste, the eMED ICON smart medicine cabinets make medicine distribution more reliable: finding the correct medication is quick and secure.

In Kuopio University Hospital (KUH), the new technology has made the nurses’ routines more efficient, which gives them more time to focus on patients.

Nurse Niko Tasala has worked at the KUH intensive care unit for six years. The work is rewarding, as you can see the results directly in the patient’s condition.

“We do this work for the patients, above all. The treatment consists of continuously monitoring the basic vital functions and supporting them with special equipment and medications. At first, I was a bit concerned about the smart medicine cabinets and learning a new system, since we need to be able to get the medications to the patients quickly. But it turned out that you can get the medications from the smart medicine cabinet as quickly or even faster than from the old cabinets,” Tasala says.

All smart medicine cabinets have an emergency opening system with which the doors can be opened even when there is a technical issue. In addition, the cabinets at the ICU are equipped with emergency medicine bags that contain small ready-to-use doses for cases where there is not a second to spare.

278,000 medicine labels in a year

You take medications from a smart medicine cabinet by logging on the device with a personal key card and PIN code. Once the doors have opened, you can take the medication directly from the cabinet or search for it by name or active ingredient. When medication is taken from the cabinet, this will be logged with a barcode reader, which will allow users to see which medications have been taken, how much has been taken and who took them.

In the future, the logs will also include information about the patient receiving the medication once the system is integrated into the patient data systems.

“The most important advantage of a smart medicine cabinet is that it increases patients’ safety, since the cabinet’s verification system reduces the risk of incorrect medication. In addition, confusions are easy to clear since the system logs every time medications are taken. There have been news about medication thefts, so the smart medicine cabinet also makes things safer for the nursing personnel,” Tasala ponders.

In addition to safety, a smart medicine cabinet saves time, as syringes, for example, can be equipped with adhesives printed directly from the system, stating the name and active ingredients of the medication, the name of the nurse and the time and date.

A total of 278,000 medication labels are printed from KUH smart medicine cabinets in a year. In the past, the personnel wrote the information on the labels manually.

All medications are always available

Before adopting the smart medicine cabinets, the records of available medications in the unit were unclear and nurses had to spend time looking for missing medications. These days, the hospital pharmacy personnel takes care of replenishing the medicine cabinets, and the smart medicine cabinet system always has up-to-date information on the quantity and location of each medication.

Thanks to the pass-through functions of the cabinets, the medical service personnel can replenish the cabinets from the outside of the room, even during a treatment operation.

“Sometimes, it would take a long time to retrieve medications, particularly on the weekends when the hospital medical service was closed and the medications had been replenished before the weekend. In the past, we had to call the other wards at random and ask for a medication we were missing. Now we can use the system to see if another ward has the medication we need. I think it’s a great advantage to have all medications immediately available,” Tasala says.

In many hospitals, the smart medicine cabinets are installed first in the ICUs where the work is hectic and technology is already used extensively.

“ICUs use a lot of medications, which is why smart medicine cabinets are used often and users quickly gain experience with them. Most medications are given intravenously, so the work is easy when the syringes and needles are integrated into the cabinet and are easily available. Nowadays, if I’m working in a room without a smart medicine cabinet, the work feels old-fashioned and difficult. Nobody wants to give up the smart cabinets,” Tasala states.

More information

KUOPIO UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL

Kuopio University Hospital (KUH) is one of the five university hospitals in Finland. KUH is responsible for high-level specialised medical care for almost a million people in Eastern and Central Finland.

ANNUAL FIGURES FOR KUH:

    • 4,700 employees
    • 92,000 patients
    • 450,000 outpatients
    • 2,400 births
    • 20,000 operations

THE eMED ICON AUTOMATED DISPENSING CABINET:

  • The first installed in 2015
  • A total of 65 in use

The article was originally published in the Icon News magazine in 2018.

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