Background: Technology in the form of Automated Dispensing Cabinets (ADCs), Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA), and closed-loop Electronic Medication Management Systems (EMMS) are implemented in hospitals to assist with the supply, use and monitoring of medications. Although there is evidence to suggest that these technologies can reduce errors and improve monitoring of medications in general, little is known about their impact on controlled medications such as opioids. Objectives: This review aimed to fill this knowledge gap by synthesising literature to determine the impact of ADCs, BCMA and closed-loop EMMS on clinical work processes, medication safety, and drug diversion associated with controlled medications in the inpatient setting. Methods: Eight databases (Medline, Pubmed, Embase, Scopus, Web of Science, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and ScienceDirect) were searched for relevant papers published between January 2000 and May 2019. Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods empirical studies published in English that reported findings on the impact of ADCs, BCMA and/or closed-loop EMMS on controlled medications in the inpatient setting were included. Results: In total, 16 papers met the inclusion criteria. Eleven studies reported on ADCs, four on BCMA, and only one on closed-loop EMMS. Only four studies focused on controlled medications, with the remainder reporting only incidental findings. Studies reported the elimination of manual end-of-shift counts of controlled medications after ADC implementation but cases of drug diversion were reported despite introducing ADCs. Three quantitative studies reported reductions in medication errors after implementing BCMA, but medications labelled with wrong barcodes and unreadable barcodes led to confusion and administration errors. Conclusions: More quality, targeted research is needed to provide evidence on the benefits and also risks of implementing technology to safeguard against inappropriate use of controlled medications in the inpatient setting. Processes need to be in place to supplement technological capabilities, and resources should be made available for post-implementation evaluations and interventions.
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- Closed-loop EMMS
- Controlled medications
- Drug diversion