Exploring the impact of an Automated Dispensing Cabinet on equipment repair, loss and search time in a busy hospital ward

Cheryl Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Automated medication dispensing cabinets are ubiquitous in hospitals in the United States and prevalent in Canada, but they are still relatively new to health services elsewhere. The automation of medication management using distributed dispensing units is aimed at improving stock management and patient safety; however, the evidence for the latter remains equivocal, and the impact on nursing workflow is poorly understood.

Objective: This study evaluated the impact on the nursing workflow of a distributed automated medication dispensing system. The research aimed to explore the acceptability and utility of this system in a variety of clinical settings and to investigate similarities and differences in the use of the dispensing cabinets across different clinical areas.

Design: A cross-sectional design was employed.

Setting: The setting was a newly constructed 450-bed regional Australian tertiary hospital.

Participants: The study involved 174 registered nurses and 12 pharmacy assistant staff from general ward and specialty areas who were using the automated medication dispensing cabinets.

Methods: Methods included a hospital-wide survey of users and an observation study of nursing workflow around the automated medication cabinets in specific clinical areas.

Results: The majority of staff were satisfied with the system and were positive about the overall safety and security. Key concerns related to access delays, and increased time needed due to walking distance and interruptions from other staff. Staff perceived that the automated medication dispensing cabinet use slowed medication administration processes as a result of queueing, and it also had other impacts on workflow. The system was found to expedite processes around controlled/narcotic drug administration. Re-stocking requirements presented operational issues; pharmacy assistants were observed waiting for opportunities to complete re-stocking tasks in the face of competing clinical requirements. Nurses from general wards were more satisfied with the system than those from specialty areas.

Conclusions: Automated medication dispensing cabinets were widely accepted by nurses in a large newly opened hospital in a variety of acute clinical areas despite disruptions to workflow. Adaptations for access were more acceptable to nurses in general wards than those in specialty areas prompting consideration of redesign to improve suitability. Tweetable abstract: Automated medication cabinets change nursing workflow because of queueing, interruptions from other staff and increased walking. Ward nurses are more accepting of such workflow disruptions than speciality area nurses #medicationsafety #nurseworkflow #nursesatisfaction (268 char).
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Nursing
Publication statusSubmitted - 2020


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