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

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


July 10, 2009

In This Article

Summing Up: Seeing Beyond "The Box"

ADCs, particularly when they interface with computerized redundancies such as bar-coding and electronic MARS, give front line clinicians powerful tools to deliver reliable results. But reaping the benefits of technology involves more than selecting "the best box."

Knowledge of how automated dispensing cabinets are used by clinicians is essential for realizing the potential of these devices to improve safety, just as they have improved efficiency and charge capture for medications. Individual performance is one aspect of medication safety: how individuals perform is affected by the knowledge and competency each brings to the task at hand along with personal practice habits and choices under each individual's control. But key elements of performance are also influenced by the system in which care is delivered and by factors controlled at the organizational level.

To maximize the benefits of ADCs, organizations should identify and manage risk points that predictably occur when humans, often busy and working under stress, interface with machines to deliver high-stakes therapies. Interdisciplinary guidance, such as those published by ISMP, identify these risk-points and recommend risk-reduction strategies, enabling organizations to align work-flow and performance expectations so that the safety benefits of ADCs are fully realized.