Karen North Tees

How innovative technology has improved medication management in my hospital

Effective management of medication in Emergency Care is paramount.  We need to get the right drug to the right patient, on time, every time.  Managing stock levels is key to that and yet traditional old-fashioned ‘drug cupboards’ – which can result in delays in getting medication and missed doses – are still being used in many hospitals.

Without doubt nurses and frontline staff are stretched and working under increasing pressure in the NHS. Significant numbers of patients are being prescribed complex medication regimes – in North Tees alone we manage as many as 441 lines on one ward.

Here at North Tees, we decided to look into automated medication technology systems with a view to replacing our old emergency ward drug cupboards.  A significant amount of pharmacy time was being absorbed with manual stocktakes required every couple of days and nurses on the ward couldn’t always access the right medication needed for patients resulting in vital treatment delays.  It was a big frustration for us as nurses as it impacted on patient care delivery. These unnecessary delays in accessing medication can have a long-term impact on a patient’s recovery and it affects the very heart of our promise to deliver effective care to all.

Omnicell’s automated medication dispensing cabinets were the standout solution for the hospital as they were easy to implement, allowed frontline staff to clearly see the medication they needed and ensured that it was stored safely and securely.

Since installing the system, the Trusts has had a stock reduction of £2,800 or 10% of the stock on hand has been achieved – we also know that further reductions could be possible when we review usage patterns too.  The expiry date reports also help pharmacy to see which stock is due to go out of date, allowing them to move medication around the hospital – so it all gets used instead of wasted.  This means that there is now very little stock expiry on the wards.

Keys were another major issue.  Authorised staff were responsible for the drug cupboard keys and nurses wasted endless time to search for the people who had hold of the keys. Unsurprisingly, we even had times when nurses accidentally took the drug cupboard keys home after a busy and stressful shift. The cabinets are keyless with nurses gaining access via their unique fingerprint. Once logged in, they are then directed to the medication they need for patients via a guiding light system. This is helping to eliminate the risk of medication errors and as result its improving patient safety.

Such is the success of the initial project, the Trust has now rolled out Omnicell across the hospital in different locations. We have 56 cells on various wards.  North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is one of six pilot sites for Scan 4 Safety across the UK. We are in the process of implementing our GS1 strategy, using Omnicell as a leading partner in our plan.

Put simply, it’s now easier for staff to do their job effectively with regards to medication management and administration and we have more time to care for patients. We don’t find out of date items anymore and we don’t run out of things. The time taken to get medications is much quicker and we can always get the medication we need when we need it. That makes it much safer for staff and patients and it instils confidence in our nurses. The new approach to medication management and stock rotation ensures we always have immediate access to vital drugs which help patients recover quicker and speed up discharge times.

This is a guest article by Karen Kelsey, Senior Clinical Matron for Emergency Care at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust



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