When a school is considering automated medication dispensing cabinets or carts (ADCs) for use in simulation education, they typically want to use the type of ADCs that are found in their local hospital system. This way, students will easily be able to adapt to real-life medication dispensing once they graduate and start their careers.
However, there is more to consider when investing in ADCs for education. Automated medication dispensing carts and cabinets are complex products with many different combinations of software. Throughout my time as a regional territory manager for Pocket Nurse, I’ve found that working through the following questions with my clients is the best way to determine exactly what kind of ADCs belong in their simulation labs.
Education versus Training
The first thing an educator should ask her/himself is: Should I focus on teaching the skill (properly dispensing medications) or train to a specific type of equipment from a particular brand (because it is what they will be using in the field)?
Here are some features to consider:
1. Is the system scalable?
Does the system or software integrate with what the organization has already purchased?
The goal should be to build a complete system for the simulation lab. A cart for teaching nursing students how to perform bedside administration should integrate with a standing cabinet for teaching pharmacy technician students how to restock medications appropriately. The units should also be able to communicate with each other wirelessly for a seamless educational experience.
Additionally, as the technology continues to advance, debriefing software will be available to integrate with cabinets and carts. This will give instructors and students a 360-view of everything in the simulation exercise for review. Whatever unit a program is looking at should have this upgradable ability.
2. Can patient profiles be created and updated as needs change?
An ADC system can be flexible enough to allow instructors to add and modify patient profiles and medication information as needs change; however, some manufacturers require users to send change requests to them. They then make the updates, which are pushed out via the cloud. This may result in delays if there are many requests in the manufacturer’s queue.
3. What are the ongoing costs?
This is one of the biggest concerns for many simulation programs. Budgets don’t always increase from year-to-year, yet costs often do.
Will costs increase depending upon charting functionality of the software? If so, how much?
Some manufacturers offer a one-time site license fee for software that is installed locally on one cabinet or cart. Alternatively, manufacturers may offer the option to purchase yearly individual licenses for more advanced software. If the healthcare field is continually improving, giving instructors and students access to the latest software is a benefit to them, and may give the program an advantage when prospective students are considering what school to attend.
In conclusion, this is just a sample of some of the most important points to consider when purchasing this type of equipment. It is critical to schedule some time with an company’s account manager to talk through an institution’s unique requirements. Taking some time in the early stages of building a simulation lab will greatly impact the ability to expand as technology changes in the future.
Terry Kitchen is Regional Territory Manager for the central and mid-west regions of the United States. For more information on an appropriate ADC system, or any other simulation lab needs, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @TerryKitchen412.