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Medcab Delivers Exceptional Care While Lowering Risk

November 12, 2018 | by Brian Shoenfeld

Patient Care vs. Nurse Capacity

Hospitals are under ever-increasing pressure to deliver better patient care with fewer resources. It’s a challenge for not only hospitals but for most healthcare facilities who are often understaffed.

As the population ages and the needs for those people over the age of 65 accelerate, the U.S. healthcare system is overwhelmed. In an ideal world, hospitals and healthcare facilities alike would be able to recruit top talent with attractive salaries, unhindered by budget constraints. Every patient would have one-on-one nursing care without delays. That’s in an ideal world.

Unfortunately, our healthcare system in the United States is more complicated. Government administrations come and go, yet none have been able to completely solve the many facets of the healthcare crisis. In the meantime, patients are, of course, the ultimate losers in that they must wait for care, often sharing nurses with many other patients, and sometimes receive subpar care.

Nurses, on the other hand, are struggling as well. They are trained to provide the best quality care, yet with so many patients to care for and all of the non-caregiving tasks they are asked to complete, they are physically unable to perform at their top capacity in most cases. More than half of nurses in a global study said there were not enough nurses to provide high-quality care.

All is not lost, however. There are steps hospitals and healthcare facilities can take to lessen the load on their nurses so they are able to reach their goals of providing excellent, personal care to every patient they serve.

Medcab Is a Hospital Staple

Hospitals and healthcare facilities have become rather lean in how they operate. They are finding ways to reduce costs, lower risk and find efficiencies in their workflows. The entire organization benefits but none so much as the nurses and therefore, their patients.

Something as simple as a medication cabinet, a medcab, is giving nurses the capacity to do more with less. There are several benefits of a medcab, some for the nurses and pharmacists, and others for the healthcare facility. Ultimately, however, when the hospital or healthcare facility is working at optimal efficiencies, the patient is the real winner. After all, most doctors and nurses entered their fields in the hopes of making a difference in every patient’s life. By giving them the tools they need to do their best, they are fulfilling their mission. The medcab is one of those tools.

What Is a Medcab?

A medcab is a cabinet that securely stores medication and medical supplies at patient care areas in hospitals. They are used to hold bulk medication and patient-specific unit-dose medication at the medroom or patient’s room. There are different types of medcabs:

  • Point-of-Care medcabs
  • Pass-through medcabs
  • Automated dispensing medcabs
  • Unit-dose medcabs

Depending on the hospital or healthcare facility, one medcab may be preferred over the other. The design is contingent upon the pharmacy and nurse workflows, and the type of care the patient care unit desires to provide its patients. Most medcabs will offer a variety of storage configurations, locking mechanisms, and accessories.

The key to a medcab is to ensure it is secure. Medication abuse and errors are, unfortunately, more common than they should be. Medication errors are frequently reported by nursing staff often because of the nursing shortage.

Some medcabs come with a lock and key, while the more modern and innovative cabinets leverage technology to keep the medications secure. A nurse can enter their digital credentials, for instance, to gain access to their patient’s medications.

Other medcabs may provide scanning technology where the nurse can scan their ID tag with their unique credentials embedded and the system will digitally verify their access privileges. Often, these more sophisticated security systems are preferred over lock and key because there is less risk for the key being misplaced or procured by the wrong person.

Related: How Medcarts are Changing How Hospitals Care for Patients

Additionally, the software behind the digital capabilities tracks the credentials of each person attempting to access the medications in the medcab. Not only will it prevent erroneous or non-authorized persons trying to gain access, but it will also log the name of the nurses, the dates they accessed the medcab, and which medication compartment was accessed. These records provide valuable insight for managers, auditors, and even investigators should there be a need to include them.

While this software is valuable in controlling access to the medical cabinets, even more powerful software is available to provide control of medication inventory as well. The software communicates with other hospital systems through HL7 messaging to pull and send patient information, medication orders, billing information and more. It is used by pharmacy to manage the inventory levels of all medications in ADCs spread throughout the hospital. It is also used by nursing to dispense medication.

How Medications Make It to the Medcab

With security as the utmost priority, who loads the medicines into the cabinets? All medications are dispensed per doctors’ orders by the pharmacy staff. This is an important factor being that the Texas Pharmacy Association, among others, stresses the importance of hospitals being cautious with medication management.

Related: Pharmacy Engaged: Report from the 2018 Texas Pharmacy Association Conference

In the past, pharmacies took a backseat to medication management. They did their jobs on the backend but had little insight or control over what happened to the medications the dispensed. Today, however, pharmacies are becoming more engaged throughout the patient journey. They are becoming a valuable resource in the decisions that need to be made regarding health plans, prescription monitoring, regulations and compliance.

In this way, the pressure is relieved from nurses. Nurses no longer need to segregate and prepare all medications. Instead, the pharmacy takes on the responsibility. Pharmacies prepare patient-specific unit-dose medications to be dispensed as the doctor requests. They have a direct line to the physician should there be any questions or concerns. They will also make certain the hospital is adhering to the latest regulatory requirements.

Medcab Benefits Nurses

Nurses can only do so much based on their time and the tools they are given. One of the first things experienced nurses will tell you when asked what they wish they could do differently in their job is that they want to spend more time with patients. Few nurses entered nursing to fill out paperwork, run unnecessary errands or be bogged down with meetings. They want to care for people. Plain and simple.

The Medcab brings them several benefits that always rank high on their priority lists:

More Time with Patients

Nurses are amazing. If you’ve ever been admitted to a hospital or been present with a loved one who is, you know what a difference a nurse can make. When you get a great one, you feel like they are a real-life angel. They seem to know exactly what the patient needs and when. They appear to always be there when needed. The patient feels like they are the only patient that nurse is caring for and they often develop a fast friendship with these remarkable caregivers.

While caregiving is their number one priority, patient education is a critical component to their job. Nurses have more time with the patient than the doctors and are often the ones providing patients with information regarding their condition, whether with written materials or sharing their own knowledge verbally. They also teach the patient and their caregivers how to provide ongoing treatments or care once they are released from the hospital. This is an important part of patient care and without the time to do it, the patient suffers.

Related: How to Integrate New Medical Cabinets with Your Existing Workflow

When nurses operate under inefficient workflows, their time is often spent on non-patient activities. According to the “Nursing Care and Patient Outcomes: International Evidence” study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine in the National Institutes of Health, nurses spend a significant portion of their day “delivering and retrieving food trays, transporting patients, coordinating and performing ancillary services. At the same time, nursing tasks were not being attended to, such as oral and skin care, teaching patients and families in preparation for discharge, and talking with or comforting their patients.”

Medcabs completely eliminate the need for nurses to travel back and forth to the medication rooms in order to obtain patient medications. Instead, the medcab holds the exact medications the patient in that particular room requires. Once the nurse on call enters his or her credentials, they are able to access that patient’s medication(s). No walking to and from different areas of the hospital and no medication verification. Nurses can spend all of that extra time actually caring for the patient as they see fit. Whether that be tending to the patient’s medical needs, educating the patient and family, or simply listening to and comforting the patient, time is a requirement.

Better Patient Care

As we stated above, patient care can range from actual procedures and follow-up care to hygiene to education and comfort. A nurse wears many hats and each patient is different in what they need. When nurses are given more time, they can do the things they need and want to do in caring for their patients.

When nurses feel rushed and unable to tend to patients, they tend to burn out faster. Many studies show burnout has a negative impact on job satisfaction. According to one study, nurses who experience job dissatisfaction often suffer from “emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and/or lack of personal accomplishment at work.”

Cleary, nurses in this state would have a challenging time providing excellent patient care. What can hospitals and healthcare facilities do to engage nurses and help them achieve all they desire as a caregiver? Make their jobs easier and relieve as much of their stresses as possible.

The medcab is a great way to reduce the amount of stress that accompanies medication management. For nurses who worry they may give a patient the wrong medication or dosage, the medcab removes that burden. Further, the medcab stops the inefficient retrieval of medications so they can spend more time caring for patients at their bedside and less time doing the tasks they dislike. Happier nurses make for better patient care.

Less Risk for Giving Patients Wrong Medications

According to American Nurse Today, “Mistakes involving medications are among the most common healthcare errors. Medication errors lengthen hospital stays, increase in-patient expenses, and lead to more than 7,000 deaths annually in the United States.”

Patients can receive the wrong medications when the doctors, pharmacy and nurses aren’t working in unison with clear roles and responsibilities. The wrong medications or dosages can have detrimental effects on the patient and put the hospital at risk for regulatory and legal problems. Medication errors are particularly worrisome in pediatric hospitals where tolerance is much lower.

In the past, nurses would walk to the medication room and typically carry multiple patient medications at once. This opens up the possibility that medications for one patient are inadvertently given to another patient.

The medcab reduces the risk of medication errors to nearly zero for nursing staff. Because the pharmacy is stocking the cabinets, they are responsible for properly dispensing the right medication(s) and dosage(s). All the nurse has to do is input his or her credentials to gain access to the medications. Nursing will still be able to verify that the medication is correct when administering to the patient. This is a much safer option for the patient and greatly reduces the risk for both the nurse and the hospital.

Additional Medcab Benefits

Beyond hospitals being able to deliver overall better patient care, the use of medcabs also lower the facility’s risk for drug diversion, theft, or regulatory non-compliance. The software that is enabled on the smart medcabs track all access, preventing the wrong people from getting to the medications and the right people from getting to the wrong medications.

Related: Could Your Employees Unknowingly Cause Hospital Security Risks?

Each nurse has access privileges only to the medications assigned to his or her patients. Every medication is locked behind a secure door. The software provides an audit trail of every compartment each nurse accessed. If there is missing medication, whether through drug diversion or theft, it is documented and trackable. When auditors come knocking, it is easy and less time-consuming for hospital administrators to provide the requested records.

The goal of every healthcare institution is to provide quality care for its patients. Nurses are on the front lines and are among the most important facilitators of that care. By enabling nurses to provide the best care possible, reducing their workloads and stressors to improve job satisfaction, and protecting patients and the facility from medication errors, the medcab is one of the best investments a hospital can make.


About the Author

Brian Shoenfeld

Brian joined Talon in 2014 and brought with him a proven track record for project managing, product development, and increasing operational efficiency. Using his knowledge of STEM, business prowess, and healthcare experience, Brian leads Talon’s operational improvements to create better products and improved customer service. When he’s not in the office, Brian spends time with his wife and two sons and cheers on Syracuse.