The numbers are frightening indeed: 98,000 people will die this year due to mistakes in patient care with as many as 7,000 resulting from medication errors. Today, medical errors are the eighth leading cause of death in the United States and cost as much as $50 billion a year.
The healthcare industry is in a fragile state. There is a critical shortage nationwide of nurses and pharmacists, crucial members of healthcare teams that treat patients daily. Short-staffed hospitals are struggling to provide quality care under these tough circumstances and patient safety has become an imperative for clinicians, administrators and legislators.
Enter Omnicell(r). Established in 1992 by Randall Lipps, who now is chairman, president and chief executive officer, the company is the leading provider of patient safety solutions. Addressing the medication-use process and the medical-surgical supply chain, Omnicell’s broad range of solutions are used hospital-wide, in the pharmacy, nursing units, operating room, cardiac cath lab, and all the way to the patient’s bedside.
Through “omni,” meaning something for all or all shapes and sizes, and “cell” standing for the different cells or containers central to the Omnicell product line, the company is addressing the medication-use process and the medical-surgical supply chain. Today, Omnicell’s solutions are used by more than 1,400 healthcare facilities to reduce medication errors, operate more efficiently, and decrease costs.
“We’re about improving patient care by enhancing operational efficiency,” says Ken Perez, vice president of marketing for Omnicell. Omnicell’s end-to-end solutions include systems for physician order management, automated pharmacy retrieval, medication packaging, medication and supply dispensing, open bar code supply management, nursing workflow automation at the bedside, and Web-based procurement. “These solutions enable healthcare facilities to reduce medication errors, operate more efficiently, and decrease costs, ultimately contributing to improved clinical and financial outcomes,” Perez says.
An innovative and highly aggressive company, Omnicell was recognized as the fastest-growing technology company in the Silicon Valley from 1994 to 1998 and placed first in the Deloitte & Touche Silicon Valley Technology Fast 50. The 450 employees of Omnicell work in the company’s new headquarters located in picturesque Mountain View, Calif., in other offices located in Waukegan, Ill., Nashville, Tenn. and Houston, Texas, or throughout the U.S. as sales and field operations employees.
Omnicell’s product line is plentiful and driven by the healthcare world’s five “rights” of medication administration: right patient, right drug, right dose, right route and right time. “Our company’s focus and depth of experience in healthcare have enabled us to develop a comprehensive understanding of supply chain management and the medication-use process,” says Perez. “This understanding has contributed to the company’s broad vision and portfolio of end-to-end solutions.”
For instance, Omnicell’s physician order management system simplifies the communication of orders from remote nursing stations to the pharmacy. At each nursing station, physician orders are either scanned into digital senders or sent via fax machines to the OmniLinkRx server. The electronic image of each order is then instantly communicated to the pharmacy workstations. Technicians and pharmacists can then enter physician orders into the pharmacy system while viewing a digital image of the actual physician order online. Ultimately, the system enables healthcare facilities to increase efficiency and improve patient care and safety.
“This product allows nurses to view the status of orders sent to the pharmacy via a Web browser at the nursing station. It helps to reduce unnecessary phone calls and reduces paperwork,” says Perez. Medications are also available for patient administration more quickly and nurses are freed from the administrative tasks typically associated with manually communicating with the pharmacy.
Omnicell’s PharmacyCentral product enables hospital pharmacies to manage medication inventory in the central pharmacy by reducing medication errors, streamlining workflow for greater efficiency and improving inventory control. It combines the benefits of an automated medication carousel system with bar code technology and sophisticated distribution and workflow management software. “It does away with the old ‘shelf units’ so often used in pharmacies and helps pharmacists ensure that the right medications are stored in and retrieved from the right locations, both in the central pharmacy and in automated dispensing cabinets,” explains Perez. The carousel also maintains the security of meds by controlling access to the system via a user name and password.
Another Omnicell innovation is the SafetyPak(tm) system, an automated bar code medication packaging system that allows pharmacies to improve dispensing accuracy, increase productivity and reduce costs. By labeling individual medication doses with bar codes, SafetyPak enables bedside medication administration solutions, such as Omnicell’s SafetyMed(tm) RN, to perform bar code checking at the patient bedside, helping to ensure the five rights of medication administration. “SafetyPak allows pharmacists to automate the replenishment of decentralized cabinets as well as the filling of individual patient medication bins, which in turn improves the workflow of the central pharmacy,” says Perez.
Omnicell’s SafetyMed RN is a comprehensive patient safety system designed to provide point-of-care documentation of medication administration. The system allows the clinician to access vital clinical information at the bedside to enhance the quality of care provided. “The system performs verification checks at the bedside when medication is administered,” says Perez. “By automating nursing workflow and doing the checks at the bedside this product helps to improve nursing efficiency and ensure patient safety,” says Perez.
Healthy Bottom Line
To say Omnicell’s growth has been healthy is definitely an understatement. The company went from nothing to $48 million in the span of six years. It went public in 2001 and its stock is up nearly 10 times since early last year, sitting at a comfortable $20 per share. “We’re seeing about a 25 to 30 percent growth rate every year,” says Perez.
The meteoric rise can be largely attributed to acquisitions on the part of the company.
“We’ve had three key acquisitions in the last year and a half alone,” says Perez. “We have a desire to acquire. We think we can get brand and market leadership positions by buying. We’re taking positions in various niches and dominating them.”
But above all, Omnicell is committed to providing solutions that help ensure patient safety by enhancing the operational efficiency of healthcare organizations. It is also committed to supporting research and disseminating information to promote improved patient safety and reduced medication errors.
The nursing and pharmacist shortage, patient safety, and legislation (California has passed a law that requires hospitals to implement technology solutions to reduce medication errors by 2005) are what demand the solutions created by Omnicell. “We are laser-focused on anything that ultimately will improve patient care and patient safety,” says Perez. “We are doing good. It’s about helping people.”