Tips for Expanding the Value of Pneumatic Tube Systems


December 2010 - Vol. 7 No. 12 - Page #40

Geisinger Medical Center has been using a computerized pneumatic tube system for the last 30 years; currently with 95 computerized tube stations throughout the 485-bed hospital. The pharmacy uses the tube system primarily to send urgent doses, missing doses, and some first doses.

As part of an effort to increase system efficiency, Geisinger recently upgraded the tube system hardware/software from 2400 to 9600 baud rate. In addition, four separate tube stations were installed in the pharmacy, allowing the department to redirect some staff to other distributive functions. A new feature added to the pharmacy information system incorporates the tube location of the unit on the medication label, which saves time while reducing the likelihood that a medication will be sent to the wrong location.

Security Concerns
When determining the location of stations for each floor of your facility, consider The Joint Commission and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requirements for medication storage. A tube unit in a public hallway does not ensure medication security. Ideally, tubes will deliver medications to a locked medication room. If the layout of your facility precludes this option, stations should be located behind nurses’ stations rather than in public walkways. Policies and procedures must be established to identify what items can be sent to which locations and must address the security of the station location.

Many systems offer a secure send feature, wherein each delivery requires the recipient to enter a code to access the item. This option requires that timeframes for passcode changes and passcode-sharing issues are addressed in established policies and procedures. If you do not have a secure send option on your system, there are devices available that require the use of a key to access the carrier.

Selling Points to Administration
Adding additional tracking features to the system will decrease the number of missing doses, plus the available system data will allow you to chart potential cost savings and project the return on investment. Reducing the time it takes for patients to get their medications, in addition to helping meet TJC requirements for medication control, are key selling points for securing funding.

System Expansion
Geisinger’s current automated system allows us to analyze usage patterns, wait times, and the precise time of delivery to the destination station. While we are unable currently to track the sender and recipient of any tube deliveries, we will be installing bar code tracking that will identify the sender (via name tag), the drug loaded into the tube (via its NDC), the station of origin, the destination, and the tube’s recipient.

David J. Klinger, RPh, is the director of pharmacy at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania.

Dale Palmer is the special equipment technician also at Geisinger Medical Center.

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