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Automated Dispensing Machines and the Pharmacy Technician


As a pharmacy technician, you may be responsible for using automated medication dispensing systems such as the Omnicell and Pyxis systems. These systems are designed to help manage medications, reduce errors, and increase efficiency in healthcare settings.



How are Automated Dispensing Machines Helpful to Healthcare Staff?

Automated dispensing machines are designed to help manage medications, reduce errors, and increase efficiency in a number of ways. Here are some of the ways that automated dispensing machines are helpful:


Improved Medication Management: Automated dispensing machines help improve medication management by ensuring that medications are stored, dispensed, and tracked accurately. This helps to reduce the likelihood of medication errors and improves patient safety.

  1. Increased Efficiency: Automated dispensing machines can help healthcare professionals save time by allowing them to quickly and easily access the medications they need. This can help reduce wait times for patients and allow healthcare professionals to focus more on patient care.

  2. Reduced Costs: By automating the medication dispensing process, healthcare facilities can reduce costs associated with medication errors, wasted medication, and overstocked inventory.

  3. Enhanced Security: Automated dispensing machines provide a high level of security by ensuring that only authorized healthcare professionals are able to access medications. This helps prevent theft, diversion, and misuse of medications.

  4. Improved Tracking and Reporting: Automated dispensing machines track the dispensing and administration of medications, which allows for easy tracking and reporting of medication usage. This information can be used to identify trends and areas for improvement in medication management.

  5. Better Integration with Other Healthcare Technology: Automated dispensing machines can be easily integrated with other healthcare technology systems, such as electronic health records (EHRs) and pharmacy information systems. This allows for seamless communication between different systems and helps to improve patient care by reducing the likelihood of errors and increasing efficiency.


Medication Bin

Additionally, each medication is assigned to a specific bin within the automated dispensing machine. This allows healthcare professionals to quickly and easily access the medications they need, without having to search through a large inventory or manually count pills. The use of specific bins helps to reduce the likelihood of medication errors. By ensuring that medications are stored in the correct bin, healthcare professionals can be confident that they are dispensing the correct medication and dosage to the correct patient. The use of specific bins also makes it easier to track and monitor inventory levels. When a medication is dispensed from the machine, the inventory level for that medication is automatically updated. This helps to prevent overstocking or understocking of medications, which can reduce waste and save healthcare facilities money.





Who Has Access to Automated Dispensing Machines?


In general, only authorized healthcare professionals are allowed to access medications stored in automated dispensing systems. This includes physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who have been granted access to the system.

Access to the medication in the system is typically controlled through the use of a password, PIN code, swipe card, or biometric authentication. This helps to ensure that only authorized healthcare professionals are able to access and dispense medications.

When a healthcare professional needs to dispense medication to a patient, they would access the automated dispensing system and enter the necessary information, such as the patient's name and medication order. The system would then dispense the medication in the appropriate dosage and quantity.

It's important to note that healthcare professionals who access medications from automated dispensing systems are responsible for ensuring that the medication is administered to the correct patient and in the correct dosage. They must also document the medication administration in the patient's medical record.

In addition, healthcare facilities may have policies and procedures in place regarding the use of automated dispensing systems, including who is authorized to access the system, how medications are stocked and restocked, and how inventory levels are monitored.




Using the Omnicell System

Omnicell System

When using the Omnicell system, a pharmacy technician may be responsible for:


Stocking the Machine: The pharmacy technician would ensure that the Omnicell machine is stocked with the necessary medications. This would involve scanning each medication into the system and placing it in the designated location within the machine.

  1. Dispensing Medications: When a healthcare professional needs to dispense medication to a patient, they would access the Omnicell system and enter the necessary information, such as the patient's name and medication order. The Omnicell system would then dispense the medication in the appropriate dosage and quantity.

  2. Restocking Medications: As medications are dispensed from the Omnicell system, the inventory levels of each medication are automatically updated. When inventory levels reach a certain point, the Omnicell system would alert the pharmacy technician that a particular medication needs to be restocked.

  3. Tracking Medications: The Omnicell system keeps track of all medications that are dispensed and returned to the machine. This allows for easy tracking and reporting of medication usage.


Pyxis System






Using the Pyxis System








When using the Pyxis system, a pharmacy technician may be responsible for:


  1. Stocking the Machine: Similar to the Omnicell system, the pharmacy technician would ensure that the Pyxis machine is stocked with the necessary medications. This would involve scanning each medication into the system and placing it in the designated location within the machine.

  2. Dispensing Medications: When a healthcare professional needs to dispense medication to a patient, they would access the Pyxis system and enter the necessary information, such as the patient's name and medication order. The Pyxis system would then dispense the medication in the appropriate dosage and quantity.

  3. Restocking Medications: As medications are dispensed from the Pyxis system, the inventory levels of each medication are automatically updated. When inventory levels reach a certain point, the Pyxis system would alert the pharmacy technician that a particular medication needs to be restocked.

  4. Tracking Medications: The Pyxis system also keeps track of all medications that are dispensed and returned to the machine. This allows for easy tracking and reporting of medication usage.



What Can and Cannot Be Stocked in an Automated Dispensing Machine:


Not all medications can be stored in these machines. Medications that can be stored in automated dispensing systems include the following:

1. Oral Medications: Most oral medications can be stored in automated dispensing systems. This includes tablets, capsules, and liquids.

2. Injectable Medications: Some injectable medications can be stored in automated dispensing systems. However, these medications may require additional security measures to prevent theft or misuse.

3. Topical Medications: Many topical medications, such as creams and ointments, can be stored in automated dispensing systems.

4. Inhalers: Certain inhalers can also be stored in automated dispensing systems, although this may depend on the specific system being used.





Automated Dispensing Machines and Controlled Substances:


Controlled substances can be stocked in automated dispensing machines but require additional security measures to prevent theft and diversion. Some ways in which additional measures are taken are as follows:

Biometric Authentication

  1. Use of Biometric Authentication: One way to enhance security when storing controlled substances in automated dispensing systems is to use biometric authentication, such as fingerprint or facial recognition technology. This ensures that only authorized healthcare professionals are able to access the medication.

  2. Use of Two-Factor Authentication: Another security measure is the use of two-factor authentication, such as a password or PIN code in combination with a swipe card or biometric authentication.

  3. Restricted Access: Controlled substances should only be accessible by authorized healthcare professionals who have been granted access to the system. This helps to prevent theft or diversion of the medication.

  4. Special Locking Mechanisms: Automated dispensing systems used to store controlled substances should have special locking mechanisms, such as dual locks, to prevent unauthorized access to the medication.

  5. Inventory Control: Healthcare facilities should have a system in place to track and monitor the inventory of controlled substances stored in automated dispensing systems. This includes regular audits and inventory checks to ensure that medications are not being diverted or misused.



Medications that cannot be stored in automated dispensing systems:


  1. High-Risk Medications: Some high-risk medications, such as chemotherapy drugs and certain antibiotics, may require special handling and cannot be stored in automated dispensing systems.

  2. Liquid Medications: While most oral medications can be stored in automated dispensing systems, liquid medications may not be suitable for these machines due to the risk of spills or leaks.

  3. Refrigerated Medications: Medications that require refrigeration, such as insulin and certain antibiotics, cannot be stored in automated dispensing systems unless the system has a built- in refrigeration unit.


Overall, as a pharmacy technician, it's important to be familiar with the automated medication dispensing systems used in your healthcare facility. Understanding how these systems work and how to use them effectively can help improve medication management and reduce errors in healthcare settings.



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