Even small clinics rely on dozens of different pieces of furniture and equipment to get through the day, and large hospitals require hundreds. One frequently overlooked tool is the medication cart, which nurses use while making their rounds or physicians use during procedures.
Medication carts come in a few main types, with additional features that vary widely based on hospitals or other medical facilities’ needs. However, the best option for your nursing unit may be different than the type that works for the rest of the facility.
If your unit regularly has narcotics, you’ll need a secure cart to prevent theft and abuse. However, other non-hazardous medications should also be kept as secure as possible to enhance patient safety and prevent errors.
Manually Locking Carts
Traditionally, hospital medication carts were locked with keys or punch cards. This simple system makes it easy to hand off access to other staff members and doesn’t rely on a power source.
However, manual locks are not very secure, especially if keys or punch cards are lost or stolen. They also do not necessarily have built-in mechanisms for preventing medication errors, which can jeopardize patient lives.
If you decide to use manual locking carts, make sure to take additional precautions. Like other medication carts, manually locking carts are safest when filled with individual unit doses. You will also want to avoid putting high-value medications, such as opiates, inside the carts.
Keycard Locking Carts
Instead of using a metal key, many modern medical supply carts unlock with an electronic tag or keycard. This technology can even be built into individual staff name tags or ID cards, giving each member of your team a unique code for accessing medications.
Keycard or ID card medication carts are more secure because they can prohibit staff from accessing medications outside of their shift or accessing drugs they aren’t authorized to dispense. They are a highly flexible type of cart with potential applications everywhere, from oncology units to small family practice clinics.
Narcotics boxes often use 4-6 digit passcodes that are assigned to individual users. Advanced narcotics boxes have memory chips or USB ports that allow administrators to download long-term access data, creating an audit trail in case of theft or abuse. These password systems are often enough to deter theft by both patients and staff.
This technology can also be extended to other general-use drawers on hospital medication carts. Password systems can be computerized, but some just use a small electronic keypad. Whichever you decide, you will still need to take additional precautions to prevent staff from administering the wrong medication.
Preventing medication errors requires careful confirmation of which patients are supposed to receive a particular dose. One of the best tools for this is a barcode scanner medication cart that requires medical professionals to scan the barcode tag assigned to a patient before proceeding with dispensing medication. Barcode locking can also be used in conjunction with passwords or keycards as needed for enhanced security.
This method only unlocks the drawers containing a patient’s medication once the appropriate patient’s barcode is scanned. Although this setup sounds complicated, it’s easy to use with the right integrated software and hardware. Pharmacy and nursing staff must take care when loading the cart with necessary pill cards and vials, but once it’s out on the ward floor, this type of cart offers improved security.
Some hospital medication carts include small computers and a keyboard for updating patient records to improve staff efficiency. These computers vary in size and functionality, but ideally, the computer and monitor should be able to be removed for repairs and updates.
One of the best options is a monitor mount that can be angled to suit the staff member’s height. Forcing team members to hold their necks at an uncomfortable angle while working can contribute to long-term pain and damage to the spine.
Carts can also be customized to hold a laptop or tablet, making it easier to insert or remove the computer as needed. Although this is not ideal for long-term use due to ergonomics, it’s suitable for quick updates or use with a barcode scanner.
Since medication dispensing cabinets are intended to be mobile, any electronically-locking cart or computer cart needs to have a battery power source. Carts with basic keycard or password-locking systems may use a small battery unit that runs off 4 C batteries.
However, more robust scanners and onboard computer systems need a rechargeable battery system. Older cart battery systems tend to be heavy and only last a few hours due to their outdated lead-acid battery technology. New lithium-ion batteries can last for at least a full shift.
Modern medication carts with computers can include hot-swap battery systems, which allow you to slide in a new battery before disconnecting the old one to prevent power interruptions. This improves your staff’s ability to work seamlessly even if they end up working overtime.
Size and Surface Area
Some medication carts have a narrow footprint and are designed to carry a few essentials. However, most medication carts need to carry a larger variety of medications, especially in ICU wards or other wards with high patient needs. There may be dozens of different medications and dosages required for the few patients a nurse is assigned to.
Medication carts can balance both storage needs and a flat surface area for writing and typing. The key is to work closely with a company specializing in med carts, such as Scott-Clark Medical, is to get the exact size and combination of features you need. Whether you need writing surfaces, onboard computer systems, or as much storage space as possible, we have the design expertise to provide you with the right product.
More Types of Medical Treatment Carts
Although medication carts serve various purposes, they’re just one of many carts your hospital needs. It’s essential to have a range of customized carts, so your nurses and physicians always have the exact tools they need for patients’ needs.
Scott-Clark Medical is proud to provide reliable and robust medication carts, crash carts, anesthesia carts, and much more for your health care facility. We carefully engineer our carts to be both durable and easy to clean, making your facility safer and more efficient. Every part, from the monitor mounts to the caster wheels, is built to last.
We have highly specialized batteries for computerized carts that make your team’s workflow faster. We can build a customized fleet of carts to cover all your mobile technology needs. Call us at (512)-756-7300 to talk with a team member about what we can do for you.