“Good morning, Kerttu”

Published 2nd of June 2017

The hospital pharmacy of the North Karelia Central Hospital took a giant step forward in the automatisation of the pharmacy work with a Mega-Fixu robot in 2012. It was the first fully automatic medicine storage robot in a hospital environment in the Nordic countries.

From the start, pharmacy technician Arja Immonen has been one of the main users of the Mega-Fixu. Before the procurement decision, she was part of a group that visited the Siilinjärvi pharmacy, among others, to see medicine storage robots.

“I must admit that the whole idea of such a robot and how it works was a bit confusing,” says Ms. Immonen.

The change required a thorough reflection of what using a robot would mean in practice. They wondered if a Mega-Fixu would really make their work faster and whether it would collect the medicines correctly. However, the way NewIcon worked convinced them from the start.

Camera assistance

The pharmacy hospital takes care of the preparation, product development, storage and distribution of medicine to other health care units and departments. In specialised health care in particular, the pharmacy may develop a custom medicine for an individual.

The users manage the robot using the data system of the pharmacy. Ms. Immonen receives goods and places bulk orders using the robot. She says that despite the initial challenges a new device may pose, the robot called “Kerttu” is easy to use.  She also thinks that the storage robot looks human, and its name was decided by vote among the employees.

“Sometimes I even say ‘good morning’ to Kerttu when I walk past the robot,” Ms. Immonen says, laughing.

The orders received from various departments can be very large. Thanks to Kerttu, the work of pharmacy technicians in particular is now faster than before, which frees more time for them to place orders and handle expired medicine returned from the ward. Cameras filming the robots and boxing have also proved to be helpful.

At first, the staff at the pharmacy in Joensuu had some issues with the software controlling the Mega-Fixu as the barcode readers at the feed-in misread the barcodes. The problem was solved when NewIcon decided to take care of software development instead of relying on a subcontractor. Customer feedback and suggestions helped the company develop a new and improved software.

No need for monitoring Kerttu

Ms. Immonen says that it has always been easy to contact the NewIcon personnel about any issues. Whenever there has been a problem, the service staff has always arrived within a few hours. The remote connection has also come in handy in resolving issues.

NewIcon is happy to receive feedback and suggestions from the users of Kerttu and has also put into practice some of their development ideas, including those concerning the search functions within reporting, such as expiring medicine, medicine locations and products fed into the storage.

Ms. Immonen also says that Kerttu is trustworthy, and can be left shelving and collecting products without the need of constant monitoring.

“If the robot reports that it has collected certain types of medicine, then you know it really has done it. There are hardly ever any discrepancies in the balance information that Kerttu reports.”