From Super Bowls to Super Storms: Automated Dispensing Cabinets for Mobile Emergency Care

One would not normally think of automated dispensing cabinets (ADCs) as being mobile. However, for one New Jersey medical institution they now are! As a result of the events of September 11th, Hackensack University Medical Center (UMC) received federal funding to develop a fleet of rapid response mobile medical units to be used for disasters such as Super Storm Sandy and large events like rock concerts and the 2014 Super Bowl.

Included in the fleet are two mobile Emergency Departments. Each is approximately 45 feet in length with expandable sides and contains much of the same equipment as a hospital emergency department, including critical care beds, digital x-ray, and resuscitation equipment. Each truck also has a separate pharmacy area with shelves and storage cabinets.

A case study published in the American Journal of Disaster Medicine examines how Hackensack UMC utilized automated dispensing cabinets in their mobile Emergency Department vehicles to solve drug stocking and distribution issues.

Stocking and Distribution Issues

Aside from deciding which drugs and quantities to stock, determining how to deal with maintaining records of stock, expiration dates and rotating stock proved challenging for Hackensack UMC. In addition, there was no way to ensure that drugs on shortage lists didn’t sit in the mobile unit when they could be used in the hospital. Also, there was no data being entered into the system for tracking usage and billing purposes.

ADCs to the Rescue!

In Hackensack UMC’s ED, Omnicell automated dispensing cabinets address the issues described above, so the institution decided to use these cabinets in their Emergency Department vehicles as well. Some of the advantages they found were:

  • Enabling consistency between the mobile units and hospital ED in terms of drugs stocked
  • Allowing drugs to remain in rotation in the ED by not stocking the units until needed for a mission
  • Creating a data link back to the pharmacy for tracking drug usage

A Super Bowl Test Case

Testing of the automated dispensing cabinets in the mobile units took place at the 2014 Super Bowl and was a resounding success. Drugs were easily retrieved and tracked, and the staff was happy with ease of use. Most importantly, there were no reported cases of medication errors or adverse events. Hackensack UMC is now considering expanding the use of ADCs in tents or other temporary disaster response facilities.

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