Nordic hospital boom accelerating investment in automation
The global pharmacy automation market is growing at an exhilarating pace. The market is currently valued at EUR 5.5 billion and predicted to reach around EUR nine billion by 2025 (1).
The pharmacy automation market is also growing in the Nordic Countries, which are investing heavily in new hospitals. In Finland, for example, the Central Finland Health Care District’s Hospital Nova will be the first central hospital built in the 2000s.
The previous hospital construction boom occurred in the 1960s and 70s, and these hospitals have reached the end of their lifespan. Building new hospitals is more cost-effective than renovating the old, as maintenance costs can be brought down by up to 40–50 per cent by building automation and the efficient use of space alone (2).
These new hospitals will be equipped with the latest technology, some of which has already been purchased. Investments in automation are usually aimed at improving the efficiency and safety of health care. In our opinion, the rationality of work is also a part of this vision, since automation improves occupational safety as much as patient safety. The automation systems are ”work mates” that do your routine work and free experts to focus on tasks appropriate to their qualifications.
In the Nordics, for example, Denmark has earmarked EUR 0.9 billion for new technology, which amounts to 14 per cent of the total hospital construction and renovation budget. In our estimate, the share of pharmacy automation systems is typically 1–2 per cent of the total budget. The sum could be bigger, considering the savings created by such devices. Automated dispensing cabinets, for example, can reduce the pharmacies’ mandatory reserve supplies and thus the capital tied up in medicines. And that is just one area in which pharmacy automation saves money.
The efficiency, safety and rationality of pharmaceutical services require increasing attention due to the
ageing of the population. This structural change touches the Nordics and the rest of the world equally. It requires new ways of working and harnessing automation, since the pool of qualified professionals will not be sufficient to serve the growing number of patients.
One concern is that the risk of medication errors will grow due to insufficient resources. Already, up to 20 per cent of administered doses leads to medication errors (3). Thankfully, serious or fatal medication errors are rare, but zero tolerance for even insignificant medication errors is required in health care.
1. Grace Market Data: Global Pharmacy Automation Systems Market 2017–2025 by End-user, Product and Region June 2018.
2. Future Hospital OYS 2030. URL: http://oys2030.fi/english.php
3. Härkänen, M. (2014). Medication-related Adverse Outcomes and Contributing Factors among
Hospital Patients. Publications of the University of Eastern Finland.