Automated Dispensing System

What Are Automated Dispensing Systems?

An automated dispensing system, or automated dispensing cabinet (ADC), is a computerized medication dispensing cabinet for hospitals and healthcare settings. The system allows medications to be stored and dispensed at any point of care while keeping track of drug distribution. Automated dispensing systems are also referred to as unit-based cabinets, automated dispensing devices, automated distribution cabinets, or automated dispensing machines.

The Advent of Automated Dispensing System

Automated dispensing systems in association with hospital pharmacies were first introduced in the 1980s. Followed by the 20 years of advancement, dispensing units incorporated with such systems were gradually developed into a more decentralized medication distribution system. The transition was inevitable as more emphasis was being placed on patient safety and the wellbeing of the medical staff. The implementation of the advanced dispensing technology was said to have streamlined the distribution and billing processes by a great margin, which in turn increased the patient and staff satisfaction.

In the 2000s, the technology had set foot into other care settings aside from hospital pharmacies. People were seeing needs in other medical sectors where medication doses stored onsite needed to be managed with better inventory control and accessibility. These sectors include hospice, long-term care facilities, critical access hospitals, surgery centers, group homes, residential care facilities, rehab, animal health, dental clinics, and psych environments. The advanced automated dispensing systems contributed to these settings with safe storing and efficient distribution of individual doses of medications at point of care.

Market Outlook for Automated Dispensing System

Following the vast implementation of automated dispensing systems, the global market in pharmacy automation is projected to surge by nearly 11 percent over the next 15 years. Hospitals have been trying to hustle their way out of rising labor costs, decentralization of pharmacies, and the increasing demand for healthcare services. And to avoid the adverse effect of medication error in the relevant settings, the extent to which the automated medication dispensing systems are deployed will only keep rising.

Features of Automated Dispensing System

An automated dispensing system is like a barcode scanning machine that helps hospitals and clinics make better decisions to reduce medication errors. Some units have metal locking drawers for the added security and the related functions to eliminate the need for blind counting medication doses. What also differentiate the modern units from the ones back in the days is that they have been adapted to comply with domestic regulatory requirements to facilitate safe practices. 

Moreover, the modern units are coupled with advanced interfaces and software to dumb down the dispensing process. They offer computer controlled storage, tracking, documentation of medication distribution, all of which have proven extremely beneficial for resident care units. How the system usually works is that a central pharmacy computer is used to track the stocking and distribution process, with the interface showing the relative readouts. The systems can also be linked with external databases such as resident profiles and billing systems. Most automated dispensing units come in different sizes, costs, and other functions designed with the patient population, demographics, and types of healthcare facilities in mind.

Evaluating Implementation Results

With all of the benefits of automation dispensing systems covered, hospitals need to evaluate the solutions to see if the implementation lives up to the expectation. If you’ve not seen a substantial return on those investments, perhaps it is time to look into other elements that should complement the automated system. This includes workflow optimization strategies, process improvements, smart financial decisions, and so on.

That being said, you need to evaluate all of the interlocking elements collectively to see if deploying the automation dispensing system delivers the value it promises. The system should be used in accordance to pre-defined guidelines in order not to compromise patient safety. The results should also be reviewed under a systematic measuring scheme. Many hospitals neglect the importance of this step, hence leading to a loss of countless dollars because the system simply did not deliver in the long-run. 

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