In 2001, as part of an organisation-wide effort to reduce medication errors and improve patient outcomes, Mercy formed the Mercy Meds programme, an innovative supply chain-driven, clinical patient safety initiative that serves Mercy's 20 hospitals located throughout Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas. The programme was designed to enable Mercy to distribute all of its medical and pharmaceutical supplies from a single Consolidated Services Centre based in Springfield,Mo., resulting in streamlined workflow, increased productivity and a reduction in medication errors.
After carefully considering the technology needs for Mercy Meds, Mercy chose printers from Zebra Technologies to produce its barcode labels. Mercy had previously used Zebra® printers in its supply chain operations and found them to be durable and easy to use. The organisation deployed Zebra's Z4M™ and TLP 3844-Z™ printers in its main distribution facility to generate shelf, unit-dose medication and tote labels, and in all of its receiving docks to produce ship-ment tracking labels. The TLP 3844-Z printer accommodates a variety of label sizes and is used to create barcode labels for products that the manufacturer has not barcoded or to replace barcodes that won't scan.
"Since our programme is centred on patient safety, it was critical that we selected high-quality, reliable printers that would produce clear barcodes with a high scan rate," says Dudley. "Our Zebra printers have proven to be workhorses—generating thousands of labels each day while consistently producing crisp and highly scannable labels and requiring only minimal maintenance."
When medications arrive at the service centre, staff repackages the tablets or capsules into unit doses and then applies barcoded labels to the unit dose packages. If someone in the local hospital pharmacy scans the barcode label on a shelf that is low on inventory for a specific medication, a replenishment order for that medication is triggered. The automated medication cabinets on the nursing floor also generate a replenishment request when inventory reaches a pre-determined minimum.
Once the replenishment order is received in the service centre, a barcoded tote label containing the order fulfillment information is generated. A materials handler scans the tote label and pulls the required unit dose packages off the shelf and packs them in the tote bound for the hospital. A barcoded tracking label is applied to the tote, enabling the order to be tracked from the distribution centre to the hospital site. "When the hospital receives the tote, the medica-tions can go from the delivery truck to the medication cabinets on the patient floors without stopping in between, which is a huge time-saver," says Doreen Northrup, manager of pharmacy services at Mercy.