Mercy Health Love County - News

New Drug Dispensing Cabinets Add Slots, Features

Posted on Friday, December 11th, 2020


Kim Collins, RN, Drug Room supervisor, calls up a patient's
medication list on the computer of the new drug dispensing

Only the drawer containing the patient's medication will open.
The slot containing the drug lights up. These measures of the
new electronic drug dispensing cabinets is intended to prevent
medication errors. Milee Walters, LPN, above extracts a 
patient's dosage as Kim Collins, RN, Drug Room Supervisor, looks on.


A new computerized cabinet for patient drugs is making it easier for Mercy Health/Love County Hospital to dispense, stock, and track medications.

The fundamental concern, says Drug Room Supervisor Kim Collins, RN, is to keep patients safe from medication errors.  

The Omnicell cabinet is a sealed unit that cannot be manually opened. Instead, floor nurses call up a patient’s drug profile on a computer workstation attached to the cabinet.

The computer opens only one of the unit’s drawers at a time – the one containing the exact medication and dose required. Lights flash on the bin containing the drug. This eliminates manual selection and with it the opportunity for picking wrong medications.

The nurse will scan the barcode label on the medication pulled from the drawer to be sure the medication matches the label shown on the computer monitor. Finally, before administering the drug, the nurse will compare the drug’s name and dose to the doctor’s written order for the patient.

An electronic record of the transaction is made. Among other information, the record shows what drug was removed, the drawer and bin from which it came, the name of the nurse who withdrew the medication, and the name of the patient for whom it was ordered.

Only eligible nurses may extract patients’ medications from the cabinet. Their identification is assured through fingerprint scans. The scans expire at the end of the shift.

Collins, the drug room supervisor, keeps the cabinet stocked with up to 1200  medications in normal use in the hospital. The cabinet computer keeps inventory. “The system automatically reorders as the drugs are pulled out,” Collins said, citing a key feature of the new system.

The system is tied into the Epic health record system the hospital and emergency room use for patient billing.

The hospital went to automated drug dispensing in 2007. The new cabinets replace the former system.