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The 10 rights of medication and the role of automation in hospitals and pharmacies

Julian Vogelsanger
18 March 2024
Reading Time: 5 min.
When treating patients with drugs, hospitals have to comply with a range of measures to ensure a safe and effective therapy. Incorrect drug handling can lead to an incorrect therapy, which in turn can lengthen the recovery period, prevent recovery altogether or even worsen the patient’s condition. Measures like the 10 rights of medication ensure that drugs are handled correctly, therefore safeguarding patient safety. Today, automated solutions are helping nursing staff comply with the 10 rights of medication.

What are the 10 rights of medication?

The 10 rights of medication are set of general guidelines in healthcare that aim to ensure that drugs are administered correctly at all times. A series of measures taken in line with these guidelines help to reduce medication errors, even when treating a large number of patients. The 10 rights of medication have become an established practice for quality-focused drug administration. Without the support of automation solutions, the 10 rights of medication are usually applied as follows:

Right patient

The most important thing to ensure is that the medication is administered to the right patient. The nurse can address the patient in their bed by their name or check the name tag.

Right medication

To err is human. But if medications are mixed up, it can have fatal consequences. One way of safeguarding that the right medication is administered is to have a second person check.

Right dose

The drugs must be administered in the right dose. This is specified in the prescription from the doctor.

Right route

The speed with which a medication is absorbed into the body influences the method and location of application:

  • Topical, i.e. directly at the point of effect on the body
  • Parenteral, in order to bypass the digestive system and stomach acid
  • Enteral, where the medication only starts to take effect in the digestive system
  • Sublingual, if the oral mucosa can absorb the medication


The attending doctor specifies the correct application route in the prescription.

Right time

For many medications, a constant concentration of the drug must be maintained in the bloodstream to achieve the full effect. As a result, it is important to comply with the time of application specified in the prescription.

Food also plays an important role. Some medications can only be taken on an empty stomach; before, after or with a meal; or regardless of meal times.

Right duration

Just as important as maintaining a constant concentration of the drug is complying with the prescribed duration of therapy. Even if the patient no longer notices any symptoms, they must continue taking the medication as instructed to ensure a successful therapy.

Right storage

Factors like heat, sunlight and moisture can damage certain drugs. They must therefore be stored in a cool, dark and dry location. Some drugs can be stored in a refrigerator. In a worst-case scenario, incorrect storage of medicines can mean that the medication must be thrown away.

Right risk management

This right is all about recognizing potential risks in good time. But it is also about developing and implementing long-term measures to prevent medication errors.

Right documentation

Complete documentation must include the names of the patient and doctor, the medication, the date, quantity and other information. This is important for billing and insurance reasons, depending on the institution. Narcotics are an important exception: documentation is required here by law.

Right disposal

This final right regulates the way in which medication that has expired or is no longer necessary is safely disposed of, as a normal waste bin is not suitable for this purpose.

Increasing efficiency and patient safety through automation

As mentioned earlier, to err is human, even in clinical medication management. Factors like the stresses of everyday hospital life, orally conveyed information and written records increase the risk of errors. But these can have fatal consequences and seriously jeopardize patient safety.

Automation can provide a solution here. Many hospitals already use automated transport through a pneumatic tube system. But automation can also help staff in laboratories and pharmacies, as well as at the point of care.

Nurse working on an ADC
The caregiver uses an automated dispensing cabinet to safely store medicines at the point of care.

How automation supports the 10 rights of medication

Combining the 10 rights of medication with a suitable automation solution takes efficiency and patient safety to a new level. Automation can be employed effectively both in hospital pharmacies and on the wards. Robotic dispensing systems and unit dose systems in the central pharmacy, as well as automated dispensing cabinets (ADC) on the wards, ensure precise dosing, clear labeling, and improved planning and documentation.

ADCs on the wards support the 10 rights of medication

Automated dispensing cabinets can store various types of drug and ensure correct dispensing. They also store all the information included in a medication plan. These cabinets are generally located directly at the point of care and are a simple way to incorporate automation into clinical procedures. Eliminating repetitive tasks makes life easier for nursing staff and allows them to concentrate on patient care.

ADCs allow for reliable inventory management and dispensing, as well as simple documentation, which all help to comply with the 10 rights of medication. This results in fewer errors and greater efficiency.

Right person, medication and dose: Electronic prescriptions are directly linked to the corresponding patient. This means staff no longer have to decipher a doctor’s handwriting. Nurses are guided via light signals and displays on the screen to the correct medication for the patient.

Right route and time: The system can connect drugs to additional information, and provide instructions on the correct route and time of administration.

Right duration: The electronic prescription in the system also includes information on the duration of therapy for the patient, making it clear at all times.

Right storage: A series of sensors monitors the storage temperature. Should this deviate from the standard, the system issues a warning. Refrigerators can be integrated into the system using external locks.

Right risk management: In general, only authorized users have access to the system. Messages and questions regarding the respective medication can also be added as an additional security measure. It is also easy to add an additional check through a second person.

Right documentation: Every step of the process is documented. This removes the need for manual documentation and makes generating reports easy.

Right disposal: Here, ADCs come in a step earlier and reduce drug waste through a combination of intelligent FEFO dispensing and return mechanisms.

10 rights or 5?

In some places, you may read about 5 rights of medication or 6 instead of 10. Every healthcare institution can decide for themselves the scope and level of complexity with which they apply the rights of medication. What matters most is clearly communicating the chosen approach and making sure it is well understood and consistently followed, in order to improve patient safety.

Conclusion: Automation improves compliance with the 10 rights of medication

The 10 rights of medication are vitally important to patient safety in healthcare. Automation solutions in hospitals can improve compliance with these rights. Automated dispensing cabinets on the wards in particular provide simple and effective support for nursing staff. They help minimize human error and protect patient health.

About the author

Julian Vogelsanger works in our Product Management department. He knows our MedSMART automated dispensing cabinet like the back of his hand. He uses his experience with MedSMART and the rest of our products to develop clever workflows for the needs of our customers.

More about Julian Vogelsanger
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