Automated unit-dose packagers for acute care pharmacy

State of Pharmacy Automation. Pharm Purch Prod. 2010; 8

I was doing a little Sunday morning reading and came across an interesting set of slides at the Pharmacy Purchasing & Products (PPP) website  (registration required to access the slides). I haven’t spent much time reading PPP Magazine, but I should because they always seem to have something good about pharmacy automation and technology in just about every issue.

Anyway, I’ve been looking at various automated packaging machines lately and thought the information at the PPP website was rather timely. According to information found at the site “After a slight dip in the number of facilities packaging medications in bar coded unit dose in 2009, this process realized a significant rebound in 2010. Nearly three quarters of all facilities now have such an operation in place. Hospitals taking advantage of the increased data capacity offered by two-dimensional bar codes also bounced back this year. In conjunction with these improving adoption rates, pharmacy directors are also reporting rising satisfaction rates with their operations. Despite a staunch minority that sees no need for a unit dose packaging operation, the vast majority of those without such a system plan to implement one shortly.” The graph in this post is from the PPP slide deck and shows the percentage of facilities using bar-code unit dosed packaging for medications over the past several years. This comes as no surprise when you consider the relative inexpensive nature of this technology when compared to other pharmacy automation, the ease of which it can be implemented and the push for BPOC in healthcare. Call it a perfect storm.
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Cool Technology for Pharmacy – AutoPharm

Our facility utilizes several software and hardware products from Talyst to manage our pharmacy inventory and support our goal of bar coding 100% of the pharmacy inventory. The entire system consists of the Talyst AutoCarousel system for automated carousel storage, their AutoPharm software for inventory management, their AutoPack system for packaging and bar coding our bulk medications, and their AutoLabel system for generating bar coded labels for items that aren’t bar coded from the manufacturer or whose bar codes aren’t easily read.
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Cool Technology for Pharmacy

This week’s Cool Technology for Pharmacy is the OnDemand 400 for RxMap from MTS, a company that specializes in adherence packaging systems.

According to the MTS website:

OnDemand ® 400 for RxMap ® is the first pharmacy automation equipment system designed specifically for multi-med adherence packaging.

This efficient system uses OnDemand technology to dispense multiple medications for a single patient quickly and accurately and in a fraction of the time it would take to do it manually. This pharmacy automation equipment system utilizes a custom interface to work with your existing information systems, enabling automated workflow management in the pharmacy. This single data input process reduces input time and the possibility of data entry errors. OnDemand ® 400 for RxMap ® uses bar-code technology to accurately dispense multiple medications into one compartment – as many or as few as needed. RxMap ® Adherence Packs vary in size and shape to meet the needs of the customers you serve. The finished product is a patient – specific adherence package filled “just-in-time” for your customer.

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Thoughts on speech recognition in pharmacy

I still work in the pharmacy on occasion. It keeps me up to date with changes that I’ve made to various pharmacy systems and gives me the opportunity to make sure my pharmacist skills haven’t evaporated. One thing it doesn’t do is get me away from my current technology related duties. In fact it puts me closer to the action and even more accessible to pretty much everyone, which means I spend a majority of my “staffing” time dealing with things related to our automation; carousel picks and loads, packager fills, compunder checking, labeler input and checking, minor troubleshooting, etc. It’s not that someone else can’t do it, but that’s the way it works out.
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Poor economy equals fewer pharmacy IT projects

Healthcare IT News: “The economy is forcing hospitals to consider delaying or scaling back their IT projects, according to a survey of America’s “most wired” hospitals and health systems.The Most Wired Survey, conducted annually by Hospitals & Health Networks magazine, the journal of the American Hospital Association, found that even with incentives being made available to implement IT, hospitals  still have a long way to go.”
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Visit to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago

During my recent trip back east I had the opportunity to drop in on the inpatient pharmacy at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago. The reason for the visit was simple. I was already in Chicago for the ASHP Summer Meeting and Northwestern utilizes some of the same pharmacy automation as Kaweah Delta. One would think that the same automation would equal the same procedures, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is one of the fundamental problems with hospital pharmacy in general. Lack of standardization equates to the inability to share information across multiple facilities. Best practice is elusive when talking about automation in pharmacy.
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Thinking about a better Automated Dispensing Unit (ADU)

Automated Dispensing Units (ADUs), also referred to as Automated Dispensing Cabinets (ADCs), are nothing new to hospital pharmacy. Over 80% of hospital pharmacies use ADUs. The most common is a product from Cardinal called Pyxis MedStation. Others include Omnicell SinglePointe, McKessen AutoDose-Rx and medDISPENSE (part of Emerson Electric Co.). Currently Pyxis is the clear front runner, and for good reason. They offer a great product.
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Well, I asked for it. Comments and suggestions from previous posts.

If you float something out over the internet, someone is going to see it and keep you honest. Remember what I said, “There is always someone smarter, harder working, more motivated and better informed than me, and those are the people I want to hear from.” Well, those people have responded with some great information pertaining to barcoding and pharmacy automation. 
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Even the best things can be improved.

I had the opportunity to speak with a nice young lady from Talyst this morning about extending our barcoding system to our pharmacy satellites. She had great insight into what we wanted to do and offered some very helpful tips. The conversation took an interesting turn when she asked me how I liked the system and where I thought improvements could be made. After the initial shock of a vendor asking me my opinion, we spent a few minutes discussing the system and how our workflow has changed for the better.

Overall, we have been very pleased with our barcoding system. I wish all platforms ran as smoothly as our Talyst products. However, there is always room for improvement. I understand that Talyst is currently working on a “big” new release of their AutoPharm software that is focused on patient safety. I don’t have specifics, but it is possible that some of the items listed here are already in the works.
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