ADU training

MGH begins multi-year, hospital-wide rollout of medication dispensing machines

This month, Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) launched its multi-year, hospital-wide rollout of medication dispensing machines.

The machines, commonly known as automated dispensing units (ADUs), will be installed in the Ken and Marilyn Thomson Patient Care Centre (Thomson Centre) in early 2023 and will launch in most other clinical units starting in 2024.

ADUs are locked, automated cabinets that provide secure medication storage while making most medications immediately available to be safely dispensed when patients require them.

This summer, new units were installed in older hospital spaces for testing and training before the full Thomson Centre rollout. The ultimate goal is to have ADUs on every unit in the hospital, including both inpatient and outpatient care areas.

New features will improve workflow efficiency and increase medication safety

Nurse uses ADU
The ADUs are equipped with several new features related to patient safety and efficiency.

While ADUs are not brand new to MGH (the hospital previously had five machines), the new devices will have improved integrations with the hospital’s existing systems.

“Building upon our positive experience with ADUs in our extremely busy emergency department, operating rooms and night pharmacy, we’re introducing an enhanced version hospital-wide as an exciting next step,” says Andrew Liu, Director, Pharmacy and Laboratory Services at MGH.

The goal of these machines is to increase medication safety and streamline the dispensing process.

Some of the top safety and efficiency features of the ADUs include:  

Biometric recognition: The machines will recognize a user’s unique biometric fingerprint for convenient log in.

System integration: The ADUs will be fully integrated with MGH’s electronic hospital information system, meaning that the machines will only dispense medications that have been ordered by a provider and verified by pharmacists. “This integration will add an extra level of patient safety by reducing the potential for errors,” says Kieu Lee, Operational Readiness Leader for MGH’s Pharmacy department.

Remote queuing: Nurses will be able to dispense medications remotely from various computers. “Once our nurses get to the cabinet and log into the machine, it will prompt them to dispense the medications that have been queued up,” Kieu says.

Override options: While there are safeguards built in to limit what medications can be dispensed, there will also be options for staff to override the machine safely, if needed.

In addition to its safety features, the technology will help MGH’s Pharmacy team’s workflows by tracking all controlled substances in the hospital, taking inventory of medication stock, checking for expiry dates and providing usage analytics.

“Automation is the key component,” Andrew says. “These machines will streamline a lot of the manual workload.”

ADUs will be rolled out on a multi-year schedule

MGH’s Pharmacy team is aiming to have this technology ready for all Thomson Centre units for move-in day, which will be in early 2023. Implementation for legacy hospital spaces will begin in early 2024.  

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