Fingerprint technology means safer medication dispensing

The traditional lock and key are now a thing of the past, with Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network today launching the first automated dispensing cabinet for medication at one of their facilities.

The new cabinet, which was installed in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, means staff can more safely manage access to medications.

Using fingerprint technology, the cabinets allow registered users to access medication while electronically keeping a track of what medication is being dispensed and to which patients.

The technology gives staff the ability to log on securely, select the specific patient and select the medications required from a list. Once selected, the cabinet will unlock the specific drawer for that medication and guide the user to the right product using green lights.

The tracking capability of the technology also helps streamline the process of stocking and restocking medications, removing the need for manual stocktake by sending an automated report to the Pharmacy Department when medication is running low.

As an additional safety feature, Pharmacy technicians can use barcode scanning for each medication to stock the cabinet.

“This system is helping to make medications more available in a more efficient and timely manner. We no longer have to rely on someone physically counting stock every day or worry about medications running out because it is all automatic," Navneeta Reddy, Nurse Educator in PICU said.

“Most importantly though, it means patients can receive their medications sooner."

The automated dispensing cabinet is part one of a three-phase transition to the Closed Loop Medication Management system, which will ensure the '5 rights' for medication treatment.

The second phase will involve using the barcodes on patient ID wristbands to positively identify the patient about to receive a medication. The third phase brings both improvements together so a patient’s wristband and medication are both scanned to further reduce the risk of human error.

“Once complete, the new medication management system means we can ensure the right patient, the right medicine, the right dosage, the right time and the right means of administration,” David Luo, Pharmacist said.

More than 100 staff in PICU have already been trained in the new system, which is expected to roll out more broadly across the Network in the coming months.