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The pharmaceutical benefits and limitations of ADCs and BCMA

The effective use of ADCs and a BCMA can considerably impact a pharmacy's operations for the better, but both can have their limitations.

Here, we will discuss the possible drawbacks of Automated Dispensing Cabinets (ADCs). Whilst barcodes can be integrated into the machines to increase accuracy, if not managed appropriately these devices can give rise to medication errors. However, there are distinct advantages to applying Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA), as outlined below.

Possible sources of errors when using ADCs:

  • Open access to all drugs in the drawer
  • Lack of verification
  • Errors arise when staff restock the machines

One should not assume that computerised systems will never make mistakes, as there are still human factors at play.

Automating the centralised dispensing process:

  • Centralised dispensing can be automated to achieve first dose dispensing and replenish low stock medications in decentralised automated dispensing devices, where all the medication dispensed by robots is barcoded. This reduces pharmacy labour costs, eliminates routine and repetitive tasks associated with dispensing, and improves medication dispensing accuracy.
  • Carousel dispensing technology can also be applied, such as dispensing devices that consist of a medication storage cabinet with rotating shelves, and comprehensive software that manages inventory and prioritises workflows.
  • BCMA technology incorporates barcode scanning into the medication administration phase. In the system, there is a three-way check of the nurse, medication, and patient at the bedside.

The benefits of applying BCMA:

  • Increased accuracy and efficiency of verification of data
  • Document time and details of administration
  • Autogenerates billing details

However, repackage and barcoding every medication package may mean extra work, and purchasing the necessary equipment is a substantial cost investment.

Pharmacists’ role in automation:

  • Planning
  • Selection
  • Implementation
  • Maintenance of electronic patient information system

The value achieved within organisations depends on three factors:

  • Efficiency of the system
  • Level of detail in management
  • Cooperation between departments

Factors to consider when selecting automation:

  • Compatibility with current hospital system
  • Investment-return ratio
  • Statistical and managerial reports of the system supplier credibility
  • Space/equipment requirements
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Good Pharmacy Practice: Pharmaceutical Services

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