Wireless Auto Locking Medical Carts For Security, Traceability

While difficult to gain statistics on, the problem of drug diversion in medical facilities appears to be rising*, with notable legal cases involving large settlements for involved institutions. Also, recent statistics have indicated that approaching 10% of all surveyed medical practices experience medical supplies theft, while the cost of acquiring, maintaining and replacing medical instruments, diagnostic tools and supplies are also rising. Therefore, the need to limit access in medical facilities to critical or potentially misused drugs, medical supplies and instruments is growing in importance as health risks, theft losses, liability costs and damage to individual and organization reputations also increase. Today’s medical administrator needs the increased security, accountability, and ability to provide quick action that Blue Bell Bio-Medical’s wireless autolocking technology for medical carts provides. It allows administrators to:

  • Limit direct access to controlled or potentially toxic substances, high value instruments and supplies
  • Ensure medical supplies are used by the proper department or work team
  • Lessen time and increase accuracy involved with granting and removing access to these assets
  • Immediately revoke access if and when events and circumstances require it
  • Provide critical records of who, when and where someone has accessed an asset (like a surgical instrument) or controlled substance

medical cart automated locksAlong with practices such as staff behavioral observation, tighter inventory control and education, automated access control systems for medical carts can be a key deterrent to growing hospital drug “diversion” problems. To Catch A Drug Thief

Suppose that an internal hospital audit reveals missing doses of Hydromorphone, Fentanyl and Demerol anesthetics from surgical suites. The auditor notifies the hospital administrator who launches an investigation into personnel working near the anesthesia carts and general purpose medical carts used to hold the missing drugs. She logs onto her wireless security software to identify who had been accessing the medical carts in the past month, and begins reviewing surveillance footage of the surgery storage areas. She notices one of her surgical nurses acting suspiciously while preparing her injectable anesthetics, hovering over the drugs longer than necessary with her back to the observation camera.

Logging into her PC-based wireless medical cart lock control program, the administrator removes access control for the suspected employee. Because she is unaware of the suspected offender's current location, the administrator does not want to wait the additional hour when she knows the system will automatically check for access updates. So she quickly circulates the hospital and pushes the reset button on all of the medical carts, forcing an immediate update. This ensures the surgical nurse does not have access to any more drugs. She notifies her human resources department and requests suspension of the employee pending an internal investigation.

What are Wireless Autolock Medical Carts?

The basic medical cart autolock keeps valuable items secure and limits access to only those who have been granted permission to open the medical cart’s drawers via key codes or pass cards. They allow administrators to set a designated autolock time, locking any drawers that are left unlocked after the determined time. Wireless versions of these autolocks allow administrators to more easily control who gains access to the medical carts, even from remote locations. They can instantly add or subtract users from their own computers without ever leaving their offices. The wireless networked locking mechanism scans for a wireless signal at predetermined intervals and updates automatically, either adding or subtracting accessibility to different employees. In the event of an emergency or if an administrator does not want to wait for a system update, each cart can be manually forced to update with the push of a button. Administrators can use accompanying software to program up to 3,000 supervisor or user access codes. Wireless autolock medical carts are beneficial in hospitals, pharmacies, or other clinical settings where controlled substances or items of high value need to be stored.

Wireless Autolock Medical Carts Facilitate Efficient Work

When coupled with other techniques such as access management oversight, monitoring of changed employee behavior, and more effective inventory methods among others, network-controlled locking systems can increase security without adding to workload in many ways such as:

  • Non-networked autolock models required administrators to make system updates and then connect to each individual cart via a computer cable in order to make the necessary changes; wireless autolocks can be instantly updated from a central location
  • Wireless autolock medical carts need not be moved or taken out of service in order to update
  • There is no time lag in order to remove or grant access, which can impede the medical cart's use, particularly in critical situations such as emergency or surgical applications
  • Access updates can be more easily monitored and checked by multiple individuals or departments to ensure no fraud or errors are being committed
  • The medical cart can be checked and put into lock mode remotely after a scheduled use in case the personnel who used it previously did not lock it

Wireless Autolocking Medical Carts Provide Entry Options

There is an optional keyless entry and proximity or magstripe reader that can work with existing employee identification cards using HID proximity, HID Class proximity, or magstripe card credentials. Also, administrators can configure the medical carts with an independently-accessed drawer lock for added security of controlled substances or valuables. The software that accompanies the wireless autolocking medical carts archives up to 15,000 access attempts complete with date, time and user name. Administrators can easily review this audit trail if they are looking to trace missing substances or track employee whereabouts.

New Designs Allow Integrating Wireless Control Locks Into Medical Carts

Blue Bell Bio-Medical’s wireless network-managed autolock medical carts help administrators easily manage user credentials and lock settings, even those at satellite facilities, from a centralized location. These autolock medical carts help facilities maintain security, meet compliance standards and serve their patients more efficiently.

Wireless Autolock Medical Carts Increase Security

Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem in the United States, fueling the occurrence of hospital narcotics theft. Some of these thefts are motivated by staffing addictions or an opportunity to sell in the lucrative underground narcotics market.

According to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), more people abuse prescription drugs each year than cocaine, heroine, hallucinogens, and inhalants combined. Their 2011 Annual National Survey also stated that 6.1 million individuals reported non-medical use of prescription drugs in the previous year. Health care providers are not immune to this abuse with 8-15% of pharmacists, doctors and nurses battling a drug dependency.

Drug “diversion” is a key reason for moving to automated access control for medical carts. The benefits include:

  • Protecting their patients from harm through medication errors and drug diversion schemes such as “substituting” saline solution for the stolen prescription drug, which is then fraudulently administered to the patient

  • Individuals creating fictitious names and then deleting them for temporary access to locked medical carts
  • Employees accessing the medical carts at unscheduled or off-duty times

Blue Bell Bio-Medical’s wireless autolock cart software can store access data to help officials target the guilty parties. Another feature of the wireless autolock that helps prevent narcotics diversion is the independent locking drawer, which administrators can program separately and store special high-value substances. Finally, with the power to quickly update lock codes, administrators can easily withdraw accessibility at the first sign of suspicion and prevent further theft or abuse by an employee. All of these security measures, in turn, benefit the patients as well by minimizing their exposure to wayward staff.

Wireless Autolock Medical Carts Make Compliance Easier

Joint Commission (JCAHO) standard MM.03.01.01 of "medication management" requires hospitals to safely store medication. One specific element of performance states, "The hospital stores all medications and biological, including controlled (scheduled) medications, in a secured area to prevent diversion, and locked when necessary, in accordance with law and regulation." Wireless autolocking medical carts simplify compliance with this JCAHO standard. Autolocks ensure that the medical carts remain locked when they are not in use. The wireless autolock is a fail safe against a JCAHO compliance fine or lawsuit based on an employee forgetting to lock cabinets or medical carts. This standard also implies that accessibility codes are current and updated promptly with any personnel changes. The accompanying software allows for simple accessibility updates made from remote locations, facilitating easier compliance with this JCAHO standard.

Automated Medical Cart Locking: Integration Into Existing Facility Network

Rather than install a separate network, Blue Bell Bio-Medical’s medical cart automated locking system uses existing, secured facility wireless (WIFI) networks. Installation can be setup for verification by multiple departments to prevent potential collusion. It connects to a standard OBDC database and can provide varying levels of audit "trails" for granting/removing access rights, and noting access by authorized personnel.


*The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported the arrest of at least one hospital employee per week in the 1990’s in some metro areas. More recently, they note a 52% increase in Minnesota from 2005 to 2011, or a total of about 250 reports of theft or loss of controlled substances. Colorado reported over 300 cases in a similar reporting period.


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