Pharmaceutical service software integrated to other hospital data systems

Published 29th of May 2015

Kuopio University Hospital is undergoing a whirlwind of extensive renewals. In addition to new buildings and renovations, the hospital has been modernized by automating its pharmacy automation. Innovative automation solutions will be put to use in the hospital pharmacy and Kaari Hospital, and their software will be integrated into the numerous other data systems within the hospital. 

NewIcon won the tender organized by KUH two years ago, because it was the only automation provider that could offer a comprehensive solution to rationalizing pharmaceutical service. 

“Pharmaceutical service in hospitals has traditionally been an autonomous field of operations without data integrations with other hospital systems. This requires cooperation across professional borders and hearing out end users, so the equipment and the data systems will start talking to each other”, says Hospital Pharmacist and Head of the Pharmacy Department Toivo Naaranlahti.  

“Our trust in NewIcon has been crucial for the success of the operation. Joint planning has progressed smoothly, and NewIcon has taken our needs into consideration in a customer-oriented way”, Naaranlahti commends. 

Improved safety of pharmaceutical service 

The delivery to the hospital pharmacy consists of the Mega-Fixu automated dispensing system for medicines, a smart raw material storage for cytostatic drugs and the IV ICON Twins compunding system that automates the preparation of medicines for administration. Additionally, the wards of Kaari Hospital will be putting 45 eMED ICON automated dispensing cabinets into use. 

“This is a comprehensive system that ensures a smooth pharmaceutical service at different stages of the process. In addition to effectiveness, we have wanted to improve the safety of pharmaceutical service”, says Naaranlahti. 

KUH handles millions of euros worth of medicines each year. More than 100 000 doses of antibiotics alone are prepared annually.

As for the new automated dispensing system, its capacity is more than 50 000 medicine packages. When such volumes are handled manually, the risk of error is also large.

“Robots work accurately due to the barcode recognition function, among other things. Verifying the validity of the medicine throughout the process is an extremely important feature, ensuring that the end user always receives the correct medicine”, says Head Dispenser Tero Koikkalainen from the hospital pharmacy of KUH.

Storage filled during June

The automated dispensing system was installed in the hospital pharmacy at the end of February, after which commissioning has commenced rapidly. Emptying the old storage has been easy, because the medicine packages have simply been tipped from their transport crates onto Mega-Fixu’s conveyor belt from where the robot has transferred them to the new storage facility. 

The degree of filling of the storage facility is 18 percent at the start of May. There is still filling to do, but work will be completed by the end of June. Only the conveyor line carrying crates of medicine packages is now working at full power, so that medicines can be delivered to the various branches of KUH and external customers. 

“The system is already partly in operation, but it has not reached its full capacity yet, because the storage and retrieval robot simultaneously shelves medicines and retrieves orders for transport crates at the other end. Therefore, we do not have measured information about the benefits of automation just yet”, says Naaranlahti. 

Easier work routines 

Due to Mega-Fixu, work in the hospital pharmacy will change so that, for instance, medicine orders from wards are checked in advance, not after retrieval. Pharmacists will have more time to go through ward orders and resolve any unclear cases. 

“A ward may issue incorrect orders that require clarification. For instance, a ward recently ordered a single pill that the automated dispensing system would not have been able to retrieve, because it only recognizes full packages. This was such an obvious mistake in the order that there was no need to even verify it from the ward”, Koikkalainen explains. 

In the future, after the system has been validated, Mega-Fixu can retrieve packages independently. Only occasional spot checks will be done to ensure a correct end result. Automation will also hopefully shift the ergonomic strain of strenuous and recurring tasks, such as unloading medicine deliveries to storage, from people to machines. 

“The work contribution of pharmaceutical staff can now go even more toward tasks that support pharmaceutical service on wards”, says Naaranlahti.