April 08, 2021

Why You Need Pharmacy Automation in Your OR

Mary Selzo, RPh
Practicing Pharmacist and Senior Clinical Product Manager, Omnicell

Automated dispensing cabinets are the backbone of most medication distribution systems, with 95% adoption in nursing units across the U.S. Yet in operating rooms and procedure areas – where a large quantity of tightly regulated controlled substances are administered – similar technology is used by just over half of health systems.

When you consider that the OR accounts for 40% of hospital expenses and 70% of revenue, why wouldn’t you want optimal medication management in such a critical area?

The OR is one of the most dynamic environments across any health system. In this space, where patient acuity is high and the process for medication use is highly regulated, anesthesia providers must remain single-mindedly focused on patient care – not administrative tasks.

At the same time, pharmacy needs to maintain a strong chain of custody for controlled substances – no easy task when you consider the number of procedures done each day, and that multiple different anesthesia providers and technicians work in the same OR in a given day. The opportunity for diversion is alarming.

How can specialized anesthesia ADCs, or workstations, help with these challenges?

For one thing, anesthesia workstations include safety features, such as the ability to print out color-coded labels for syringes, which can help prevent harmful medication errors. In addition, these workstations are intended to securely store enough medications for a full day’s case load so the provider does not have to travel back and forth to the pharmacy or store medications in fanny packs or tackle boxes.

But using an anesthesia workstation in the OR is only part of the picture. It needs to be integrated with pharmacy systems and the electronic health record (EHR), so pharmacy can maintain oversight of the inventory used and wasted. An anesthesia workstation that creates end-to-end visibility between the OR and pharmacy and provides easy access to data analytics offers pharmacy a window into the OR, helping to identify potential drug diversion and medication non-compliance issues.

Ideally pharmacy and anesthesia providers should work in partnership to maintain controlled substance accountability. Omnicell has continued to refine medication workflow with the XT Anesthesia Workstation™, and new functionality helps both parties accomplish this goal.

We’ve developed closed-loop functionality that makes it easier for providers to document waste, improving the likelihood of compliance. In fact, Baptist Health (Indiana) has increased waste compliance levels by 28%. They’re now achieving over 90% compliance – well on their way to meeting the goal of 100%. Stronger integration between the XT Anesthesia Workstation and Epic EHR also allowed Baptist to streamline the auditing process. Previously, they checked only 10% of waste transactions retrospectively on a monthly basis. Now they’re checking 100% of waste transactions in real time on a daily basis.

Automated medication dispensing technology isn’t just for nursing units. The security, data visibility, inventory management, and controlled substance tracking capabilities make this technology ideally suited to the OR and procedure areas.

Look for the new Anesthesia Closed-Loop functionality coming later in 2021, including full integration with the Epic EHR that further streamlines the controlled substance reconciliation process.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author(s). These views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time and may not be held in perpetuity.

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