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Automated dispensing systems clinically and economically effective

While it seems intuitive that automated dispensing systems (ADS) are of value, the clinical and economic value of such systems has not been established.

In this new systematic review, a UK and Spanish team of hospital pharmacists examined the published literature to identify studies reporting on either a clinical or economic evaluation of ADS systems.

A total of 48 publications investigating both pharmacy and ward-based ADS services were found, although all studies were observational in nature and inconsistent in both the design and the format with which outcomes were reported which prevented a synthesis of the results.

Nevertheless, both in-pharmacy and ward-based ADS services demonstrated benefits over the traditional dispensing method in terms of both clinical and economic outcomes. Examples included reduced medication errors, administration times and cost savings related to decreased stock, labour costs and waste.

While none of the studies performed a formal cost-effective analysis, one study did report that the ADS was more cost-effective compared with manual dispensing.

Using an ADS for intravenous antibiotics reduced medication errors and produced a 4% reduction in patient mortality. The authors concluded that while ADS appeared to have benefits it was not possible from the available data to demonstrate the change in medication error rate on patient outcomes.

Batson S et al. Automation of in-house pharmacy dispensing: a systematic review. Eur J Hosp Pharm 2020; Apr 21: doi: 10.1136/ejhpharm-2019-002081.

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