St. John's Hospital institutes new, automated medication dispensing system

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Nurse Dee Sieg and her pharmacist husband Mike Sieg show off the new Omnicell automated medication dispensing system at St. John's Hospital -- Berryville, where four units are located. Mike Sieg spent four years working toward implemention of the Omnicell, which he says is "one of the top systems around." Anna Mathews / Carroll County News

BERRYVILLE -- New to St. John's Hospital is Omnicell, an automated medication dispensing system that Tammy Hipps says is "wonderful for a facility of our size to have."

Hipps, who is mission coordinator for St. John's, was excited to announce imple­­mentation of the system at the hospital, where four dispensing units are now in place.

Located in the intensive care unit, obstetrics department, on the medical/surgery floor, and in the emergency room, the automated dispensing units are easily accessible to the nursing staff.

"The Omnicell dispensing cabinets securely store bar-coded medications and allows nurses to obtain prescribed doses quickly and easily," said Pharmacist Mike Sieg.

"The cabinets are automatically resupplied on a daily basis from the Sisters of Mercy Health Systems distribution center in Springfield, Mo.," he explained.

It is a system that is interfaced with the pharmacy's computer system, he said, where each prescription is checked for allergies, interactions and appropriate dosage.

"One of the biggest sources of medication errors is the mix-up of drugs with look-alike and sound-alike names, such as alprazolam, diazepam, lorazepam, dydrocodone and oxycodone," said Sieg.

"With Omnicell, the nurse only has access to the specific medication ordered."

He said the hospital's goal when implementing the system was to prevent medication errors, decrease drug costs and reduce distribution time.

"While a considerable amount of pharmacy and nursing time has been devoted to preparation and implementation of the system, it will save time for both nursing and pharmacy staff," he said.

"With the previous manual system, the nurses had to wait for delivery of initial doses of new medications from the pharmacy," said Sieg.

"Now, physician medication orders are reviewed by a pharmacist, entered into the patient's profile and are quickly accessible on the nursing unit."

Another time-saving measure has to do with documentation of controlled substances.

In the past, Sieg said, nurses had to manually record each dose on "count sheets" and then count all at the end of each shift.

"Now the entire process is automated with the Omnicell cabinets," he said.

According to Sieg, the implementation of Omnicell was the result of four years of planning.

It was scheduled to go "on-line" the day a late January ice storm hit, knocking out power. Its introduction was delayed several weeks, but is now in place.

A pharmacist for 30-plus years, Sieg says Omnicell is one of the top systems around, featuring patient safety and operation efficiency.

Compared to a manual dispensing system, Sieg says Omnicell "reduces cost, reduces loss," and provides patient safety with "the right dosage to the right patient."

Omnicell is part of a futuristic "paperless" system on its way to medical facilities across the nation -- including St. John's.

"In the future, as the hospital develops an electronic medical record, the Omnicell system will be able to provide bar code checking -- just prior to administration of medication, as an additional safety feature," he said.

What that means is the meds and the patient's wrist band will have matching bar codes and both will be scanned to insure a match.

In addition, it will be possible for hospital staff to have after-hours medication orders reviewed by a pharmacist at one of Mercy's 24-hour pharmacies. Everything will be linked electronically through a central server.

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