Impact of automated dispensing cabinets on medication selection and preparation error rates in an emergency department: a prospective and direct observational before-and-after study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale, aims and objectives The implementation of automated dispensing cabinets (ADCs) in healthcare facilities appears to be increasing, in particular within Australian hospital emergency departments (EDs). While the investment in ADCs is on the increase, no studies have specifically investigated the impacts of ADCs on medication selection and preparation error rates in EDs. Our aim was to assess the impact of ADCs on medication selection and preparation error rates in an ED of a tertiary teaching hospital. Methods Pre intervention and post intervention study involving direct observations of nurses completing medication selection and preparation activities before and after the implementation of ADCs in the original and new emergency departments within a 377-bed tertiary teaching hospital in Australia. Medication selection and preparation error rates were calculated and compared between these two periods. Secondary end points included the impact on medication error type and severity. Results A total of 2087 medication selection and preparations were observed among 808 patients pre and post intervention. Implementation of ADCs in the new ED resulted in a 64.7% (1.96% versus 0.69%, respectively, P = 0.017) reduction in medication selection and preparation errors. All medication error types were reduced in the post intervention study period. There was an insignificant impact on medication error severity as all errors detected were categorised as minor. Conclusion The implementation of ADCs could reduce medication selection and preparation errors and improve medication safety in an ED setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-163
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • automation
  • emergency service
  • hospital
  • medication errors
  • medication systems
  • patient safety

Cite this