Automated Dispensing Cabinets: Getting It Right in the Age of Automation

Barbara L. Olson, MS, RN-BC, FISMP


July 10, 2009

In This Article


Just as the brand name Kleenex® is commonly used for facial tissues, automated dispensing cabinets (ADCs) are often recognized by manufacturer or product names such as AcuDose®, Omnicell®, and Pyxis®. Currently, 83% of US hospitals report that they use ADCs, indicating widespread acceptance of touchscreen-activated drug storage vaults.[1] Generally welcome additions to busy clinical settings, ADCs provide ready availability of medications (a key component of acute care) while streamlining the process of drug charging.

But ADCs are more than automated teller machines for drugs. These unit-based medication repositories incorporate sophisticated software and electronic interfaces to synthesize high-risk steps in the medication use process. Today's cabinets reflect design advances as well as an appreciation for how specific technologies, such as barcode scanning and clinical decision support, can improve medication safety. Over the years, ADCs have been adapted to facilitate compliance with emerging regulatory requirements such as pharmacy review of medication orders and safe practice recommendations.