Why the Health Care Industry is Rapidly Replacing Punch Cards

When punch cards were first introduced, they were widely accepted because they replaced the use of pill bottles which were difficult for the industry to use.  While a good option when first introduced, punch cards have had many negatives identified by those who use them and are looking for a better solution.  Punch cards are

  • Cumbersome and take up a lot of space
  • Time consuming to check in and organize
  • Very difficult to punch out small medications without crushing them
  • The med administration process takes longer when staff has to punch medications from multiple cards
  • There is a high risk for errors.  Meds can be punched and given at the wrong time of day or multiple doses can be given in error because staff is dealing with multiple cards of medication multiple times a day
  • Medication errors are hard to recognize when they occur.  No one audits the cards of medication every day to ensure no errors were made.
  • It is hard to immediately identify if staff gave a med or not or  if staff gave too much medication
  • Result in a great deal of waste when medications are changed
  • When the doctor wants to stop giving the medication, if the punch card is not separated from the other meds, it can continue to be given for some time.
  • There is no picture or record of the card
  • Punch cards are packaging by hand so there is a higher risk for a pharmacy error and viruses or bacteria can easily be passed along
  • Discontinued medications are often not creditable
  • When meds need packaged for an LOA or patient outing, the packaging process takes a lot of time and can result in a med error

The desire to find a better way...

As time went on, caregivers and administrators wanted to find more efficient ways for their staff to give medications and reduce the risk for serious and sometimes fatal medication administration errors. This led to a marked improvement of new options for medication delivery in the health care setting.

The packaging of medications in what is referred to as “punch cards” has been employed by pharmacies for many years but developments in robotics and infrastructure technology have allowed pharmacies to provide far better options. The state of the art equipment developed for this purpose is expensive but the benefits far outweigh the pharmacy’s expense in making these options available for their customers.

Enter the world of med-pass packaging…

Medication Packet

The ability to customize packaging to aid administration has brought an abundance of improvements for staff and caregivers:

·         Reduction of waste and substantial cost savings

·         Take up much less space than punch cards

·         The med pass takes less time because the packets come from the pharmacy in the order that they will be given. 

·         Convenience:  The entire med pass is prepared and sorted by the pharmacy before it is delivered.

·         Many sorting and labeling options are available to match the customer’s needs, including the addition of bar codes.

·         The risk for errors by staff is reduced dramatically.  The staff is only required to open one or two packets per patient  rather than up to six or eight punch cards (multiplied by 3 to 4 med passes per day)

·         If an error is made it is more easily and more quickly identified because each packet is labeled with the date and time of day it should be given.  Staff self audits for errors at every med pass every day for every patient simply because your                  med-pass is packaged in the order in which meds are to be given!.

·         When the patient goes on an outing or LOA, there is no repackaging necessary.  The medication packets can be given directly to the caregiver or family member for administration at the appropriate time.

·         Since automation drives the entire packaging process there is very little human intervention, so there is a reduced risk for viral or bacterial contamination of the medications or their packaging.

·         The contents of every packet are verified by the most advanced medication scanning equipment available in the world ensuring that the right meds are delivered to your patient.

·         The pharmacy has an image of every packet they dispense and the images can be forwarded to supervisory staff when needed for QA or disciplinary processes.


·         Nursing and direct care staff  LOVE it!  It makes their job so much easier! Managers and supervisors appreciate the reduced risk for serious administration errors and have the peace of mind knowing they have a system in place to help ensure success.