0814 drug cart

Island Hospital officials say their new medication-distribution machines dispense only the medication the patient needs at that time and in the correct dose. (Briana Alzola / Anacortes American)

Island Hospital is implementing new medication-distribution machines to increase the security and safety of controlled substances.

The hospital has 12 medicine distribution stations and four more anesthesia stations, all manufactured by Pyxis Corp.

The stations are automated and connected to the hospital’s electronic medical record system. That means when a nurse or doctor punches in his or her code and pulls up patient data, the machine will dispense only the medication that patient needs at that time and in the correct dose.

That way, no one receives the wrong drug, the wrong dose or medication at the wrong time, hospital Pharmacy Director Ken Martin said. His department oversees the machines, keeps them stocked and replaces any expired medication. He or another member of his team scans each dose of medication in when loading the machine and then the nurse or doctor scans it when it’s taken back out. The machine keeps an updated, real-time count of everything that’s inside.

It can help reduce the time a patient must wait for medication Even a patient in extreme pain had to wait for hey were in extreme pain, it would take time for the medication to be administered. A pharmacist would need to come from another area of the hospital to provide the medication meaning a wait time for the patient.

Those departments with some controlled substances in locked carts inside of them would need to be counted at the end of every shift, which is time consuming for the nurses who had to count them and the pharmacists who needed to look over all the reports each day, Raish said.

Now, the pharmacist can check in at any point and see a report of what’s being used and what isn’t. That helps with reordering and making sure the hospital is stocking only the amounts of drugs it will need.

“The more we know, the smarter consumer we are,” Raish said.

In the old method of doing things, the nurse would visit a medical cart, unlock it and look for the drug the patient needed. It’s a time consuming process and one that does leave room for accidentally grabbing the wrong drug or the wrong dose, Raish said.

The Pyxis machines take out that room for error.

“Nurses will not be able to access the drugs that are not in the right drawer,” Raish said.

The hospital installed the machines earlier this year and spent time training all staff that would be using them. Staff wanted to implement this process for a while now, Martin said, but had to wait until the new electronic medical record system was in place. 

Now, the doctor can prescribe a medication, it can be reviewed by a pharmacist and the nurse can pick it up from the medical station, all electronically. “Now that we have a sophisticated EMR, we can reap the benefits,” Martin said.

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