Health care professionals’ perspectives on automated multi-dose drug dispensing

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Carola Bardage
Anders Ekedahl
Lena Ring


Drug Packaging, Medication Systems, Medication Adherence, Medication Errors, Attitude of Health Personnel, Sweden


Background: During the 1980s, manual repackaging of multi-dose medications from pharmacies in Sweden was successively substituted with automated multi-dose drug dispensing (MDD). There are few studies evaluating the consequences of automated MDD with regard to patient safety, and those that investigate this issue are not very extensive.

Objectives: To investigate Swedish health care professionals’ perceived experience of automated MDD and its effects on patient adherence and patient safety.

Methods: Three questionnaire forms, one for physicians, nurses, and assistant nurses/nursing assistants, were developed based on reviews of the literature and pilot testing of the questions in the intended target groups. The target groups were health professionals prescribing or administrating MDD to patients. A sample (every sixth municipality) was drawn from the sampling frame of Swedish municipalities, resulting in 40 municipalities, about 14% of all municipalities in Sweden. Email addresses of general practitioners were obtained from county councils, while the municipalities assisted in getting contact details for nurses, assistant nurses and nursing assistants. A total of 915 questionnaires were distributed electronically to physicians, 515 to nurses, and 4,118 to assistant nurses/nursing assistants. The data were collected in September and October 2012.

Results: The response rate among physicians, nurses and assistant nurses/nursing assistants was 31%, 43% and 23%, respectively. The professionals reported that automated MDD reduces duplication of medication, contributes to correct dosages, helps patients take their medication at the right time, and reduces confusion among patients. Fifteen per cent of the physicians and about one-third of the nurses and assistant nurses/nursing assistants reported that generic substitution makes it more difficult for the patient to identify the various medicines available in the sachets. The physicians did, however, note that prescribing medicine to patients with automated MDD is complicated and can be a risk for patient safety. Both physicians and nurses requested more information on and training in automated MDD. They also asked for more medication reviews.

Conclusions: The professionals generally had a positive attitude to automated MDD with regard to improved medication adherence, but said they believed that the electronic prescribing system posed a safety risk for patients.

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