The digital artists behind pharmacy upgrades

During the past ten years, the Finnish pharmacy industry has undergone a rapid digitalisation process. Many of the daily tasks have been automatised and they now take less time than they used to.

Information is no longer stored on paper but in data networks, making it easy to use the data in managing the medicine storage balance, for example. However, the digitalisation of pharmacies is not over yet, thanks to the digital artists that are also known as data system experts.

Ari Arokoski, Head of ICT development at NewIcon, thinks of data system development as a modern craft and compares the work to that of a painter.

“The computer screen is the canvas, the keyboard the paintbrush and the algorithms are like colours that help us find solutions to the problems that our customers are facing in their everyday tasks. The needs of our customers are like the ideas that inspire a work of art,” Arokoski describes.

This is the allegory that he uses whenever he wants to explain how his IT team of 10 persons works.

A team that constantly creates something new.

“We produce software for new applications and also develop new features to existing software. This requires listening to and understanding customer needs, defining features and developing software in collaboration with our mechanical, electronics and automation experts,” says Arokoski.

To hang a work of art on the wall to be admired, you also need a suspension wire and a hook. NewIcon software, on the other hand, become useful and appreciated when they are integrated in the data systems that the pharmacies use. NewIcon works in close co-operation with the pharmacies’ data system providers to make sure that the results are top-notch.

The human factor in digitalisation

Hospital pharmacies use about ten different data systems that are connected to an ERP system managing the data mass that includes patient health records, among other information. Thanks to the open interface, automation devices can be integrated into the system quickly and easily.

However, it is more difficult to determine the data to be collected from the device and how to analyse and utilise it. This is where the data system provider can be of great help.

“To make the most of the devices, information needs to be imported to and exported from them to different data systems. It pays to start an active dialogue with the representatives of the data administration, system providers and other players early on,” says Peter Sundström, Manager at Affecto Finland Oy.

The digitalisation of the ERP in hospitals has been going on for a long time now. Recently, however, the steps forward have been bigger than ever before because of the need to integrate it into pharmacy automation devices. In addition to the automated dispensing systems, NewIcon has launched an automated dispensing cabinet. Digitalisation also spreads across the organisational borders.

“In the future, the systems used in different hospital districts will be able to communicate using nation-wide information pools and architectures, but there is still a lot to be done before this becomes reality. However, discussions are already under way, and a shared project between several Finnish hospital districts and towns to update the customer and patient health record databases has been started,” says Sundström.

It may sound surprising, but automation and digitalisation are not just about technology – they always include the human factor as well.

“Automation changes the work processes and operational models, which is why it is important to manage the change in workplace communities. It is a good idea to engage the users in the planning process and think about the ways the functions of an automated dispensing cabinet support the desired goal,” Pasi Järvinen, Project Manager at Affecto Finland Oy, explains.

Making the most of the change

Managing Director Juha Antila, Receptum, and Managing Director Ilkka Toivola, Pharmadata, also highlight the importance of setting goals and considering possible benefits. The automated dispensing system alone will not bring benefits without the commitment of the pharmacy personnel to the development of the work processes and operating methods. There has to be a clear, common goal.

“Integrating automation devices and data systems is easy. Usually, the bigger challenge is the reorganisation of the work processes that is required in order to make the most of the change,” says Antila.

He goes on to describe the digitalisation of the pharmacy industry as an upgrade to traditional functions. The possibility to acknowledge electronic delivery notes, deliveries and receipts by the press of a single button helps save several hours of work a day at pharmacies.

“Thanks to the seamless co-operation between the automated dispensing system and the data system, the personnel at the pharmacy can concentrate on providing invaluable service to the customers,” says Toivola.

Antila and Toivola add that digitalisation also brings about a change in the way the customers act. Both Receptum and Pharmadata work on innovations to help digitalise the customer service at pharmacies even further. One example of this is the digital ordering system available for use between nursing homes and pharmacies.

“The customers’ requirements and expectations as well as the way they want to run their errands are constantly changing, and like any other sector, the pharmacy industry also has to respond to that change. Thus, the data systems must already meet the needs of the day after tomorrow to make sure that the pharmacies have the best tools to succeed in the changing world,” Antila explains.

The artists at NewIcon are also continuously innovating new automatic solutions to pharmacy services.

“I have noticed that our data system partners share our passion to help our customers find solutions that enable them to serve their customers even better. And that is really something to be excited about!” Arokoski adds.



More information

Ari Arokoski
Head of ICT development
Has been working at NewIcon for 3 years
Motto Continuous improvement, collaboration and innovation


Peter Sundström
Title Manager, Material and Pharmaceutical Logistics Solutions
Company Affecto Finland Oy provides hospitals with solutions to the digitalisation of hospital pharmacy and medical care as well as the visualisation and analysing of data using artificial intelligence.
Motto Anything is possible
Contact information


Pasi Järvinen
Title Project Manager
Company Affecto Finland Oy provides hospitals with solutions to the digitalisation of hospital pharmacy and medical care as well as the visualisation and analysing of data using artificial intelligence.
Motto A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
Contact information


Juha Antila
Title Managing Director
Company Receptum Oy is a systems and service provider for pharmacies
Motto Every change is an opportunity
Contact information


Ilkka Toivola
Title Managing Director
Company Pharmadata Oy is a software provider for pharmacies
Motto Always a step ahead
Contact information


The article was originally published in the Icon News magazine in 2017.


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