Great River Medical Center, a 378-bed health system in southeast Iowa, was finding it difficult to deliver medication to patients in a safe and timely way. The hospital pharmacy’s manual processes for ordering, verification and distribution were cumbersome; the average time from order to dosing was 90 minutes — an unacceptable length of time for a hospitalized patient in need of a new medication. Pharmacy managers requested more staff, but were told to find other ways to streamline their systems due to budgets constraints.

“Consultants recommended that we needed to increase automation,” says Darwin Cooley, pharmacy director, Great River Medical Center. “We were doing too much manually, which wastes both pharmacy and nursing time and decreases accuracy. We were overwhelmed by the number of calls from nurses and physicians who were waiting for medication.”

Great River had been using Omnicell automated medication cabinets since 2000 to manage inventory and verification of orders at the nursing station, but the rest of the hospital’s medication management system was manual. Three members of the pharmacy staff would walk through the storage shelves — often getting in one another’s way — to pull medications listed on printed restock lists, and then a pharmacist would hand-check each dose before technicians finally delivered them to automated dispensing cabinets at 28 nursing stations. Calls from nursing staff for missing or late medications led to further delays, as pharmacists were wasting time on scores of daily interruptions.

The hospital turned to Omnicell to upgrade existing automation and automate the rest of the medication management system throughout the hospital with an intelligent system built on Microsoft technology. Encompassing an inventory management carousel in the pharmacy, an automated unit dose packager, upgraded Omnicell G4 medication-dispensing cabinets at the nursing stations, and two Omnicell Anesthesia Workstations in the Heart and Vascular (H&V) procedure rooms, the Omnicell G4 medication management platform takes advantage of Windows Server, Windows Embedded Standard 7, SQL Server and Internet Explorer to track and manage medication from the pharmacy to the nursing station to the patient bedside, and even to the H&V Cath Labs. Medication data is linked to medical and billing records, as well as to inventory and security systems. (Read more about the technology behind this solution here.) Further, Great River’s solution enables the easy addition of new peripheral devices as needed and eliminates the time and risk of error of manual data entry.

Within six months, Omnicell had installed and trained Great River staff on the solution, and the hospital is seeing big results: The average wait time for medication ordered from the pharmacy, which used to be 90 minutes, is now just under 30 minutes — even less for urgent items. Because the Omnicell solution tracks inventory levels and automatically reorders what’s needed, Great River can keep less medication on hand and eliminate the cost and waste that result when stockpiled medication expires.

“We’ve halved the amount of medication we keep in inventory, which cut costs by $400,000,” Cooley says. “The solution from Microsoft and Omnicell automatically prepares the order and sends it directly to the wholesaler without manual intervention, preventing overstocks and outages.”

Cooley expects a full ROI to take two years, with a subsequent annual savings of $300,000 by decreasing labor and inventory costs and reducing waste.

It’s not just the hospital staff that recognizes the improved reliability of the solution: The Iowa Board of Pharmacy previously required a pharmacist to hand-verify 100 percent of medication being restocked in patient care areas, but since the Omnicell G4 bar-coding solution has been implemented, the requirement has been cut to 5 percent. This saves almost the equivalent of a full-time pharmacist’s job, which can be spent on clinical activities that ultimately benefit patients by improving outcomes and safety.

Nurses save time as well, with shorter waits at the medication cabinet and less time spent tracking down overdue orders. They can spend that time caring for patients and educating them on how to manage their care and properly take their medications after discharge, which can lead to smoother recovery and less risk of readmission. It’s difficult to put a cost figure on that, but patients and hospital staff see a clear benefit from the new solution.

“Everybody has been satisfied,” Cooley says. “It improved our patient satisfaction; it improved our nursing, physician, pharmacy satisfaction because the information flows everywhere. It’s just so nice to have everything wherever you need it.”

To read more about Great River’s Omnicell G4 medication management platform, visit the Windows Embedded blog, and read the case study here. Read more about Windows Embedded solutions for healthcare on the Windows Embedded website.

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Microsoft News Center Staff