CDH’s Pharmacy Goes Paperless

NORTHAMPTON — In late November, Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s pharmacy became the second hospital in New England to install the PyxisConnect, computer hardware and software that allows a paperless transmission of physician orders to the pharmacy and uses patient bar-coding systems to prevent medication errors.
“PyxisConnect has drastically changed how we do our jobs and relies on computer technology to make the process safer for patients,” said John Horan, CDH pharmacy director.
Before, Horan explained, unit secretaries would fax physician orders to the pharmacy, where five or 10 faxes could accumulate in a 15-minute period. Pharmacists fill the orders, but just as paper can accumulate in a fax machine, orders were not always filled in the order in which they were received. Now, the unit secretaries still fax the orders, but the fax machine scans the order, converting it into a digital image and, within seconds, sending the file in chronological order to the pharmacist’s computer screen.

Then the work begins for Doug Ellis, lead pharmacist on the PyxisConnect implementation project, and his pharmacy colleagues. “After we open the order, we see an electronic picture of the order, and we can magnify it. The PyxisConnect software allows us to highlight, cut and paste, and make notes. And if we have a question, we can put the order on hold.”

Ellis adds that the software, networked to eight pharmacy terminals, allows the pharmacy staff to see the status of an order at a glance. To fulfill the order, the pharmacist enters the medication, using the pharmacy review protocol, and completes the order. The medications are then made available to the nurses to administer to patients on the units.

Going paperless has other benefits, too. “Each order contains bar-coded in-formation that links to the patient’s medical record, reducing the chances of medication mix-ups,” Horan said. The patient ID and name are electronically gathered from the pharmacy system and used to store the order within PyxisConnect. The computer software also checks for medication contraindications, known allergies, appropriate doses, and frequency.

Of the new process, Ellis is optimistic. “We are still learning all about the potentials of this system.”

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