Swisslogs introduces next-gen RoboCurrier Autonomous Mobile Robot

Swisslog has been making these little robots for a long time, although I don’t see many of them in the wild these days.

They’re pretty cool in their own right. The robots themselves are reasonably small. The previous version was only 35-inches tall, and weighed in around 100 pounds. But they could carry up to 50 pounds worth of cargo and could navigate around the hospital completely on autopilot. I’m not entirely sure, but I believe they use RFID technology to navigate.

[Update 08 01 2013]: According to Swisslog the RoboCurrier “utilizes an obstacle avoidance system and mapping software that’s set up during installation“.

One of the coolest features though is use of a prerecorded message to announce its arrival.
Continue reading Swisslogs introduces next-gen RoboCurrier Autonomous Mobile Robot

What the NECC fiasco means for automation in pharmacy IV rooms

According to the CDC website, the fungal meningitis outbreak linked to a tainted batch of steroid injections made by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts has resulted in more than 500 case reports and 36 deaths (as of November 28, 2012).

A lot of things happen when something like this occurs. People become fearful, regulatory agencies begin to scrutinize processes and practices, organizations like ASHP begin to formulate statements and create plans to deal with questions and backlash, healthcare systems begin to reconsider how they do things, and people begin to change the way they think. It’s a natural progression. I’ve seen it happen more than once during my career; never to this extent, but I’ve seen it before. It typically leads to practice changes and an entirely new market for consultants.

The NECC case has caused quite a stir in the pharmacy community. I’ve seen a wild swing in topics of discussion among pharmacists in the acute care setting, i.e. hospitals. Two things in particular have caught my attention: 1) all of a sudden everyone is worried about compounding safety in the IV room, and 2) everyone is talking about robotics. I’ve talked to a couple of friends that are still practicing pharmacy and they are “in the process of looking at IV robots”. Both cited NECC as the reason for their new interest in robotics.
Continue reading What the NECC fiasco means for automation in pharmacy IV rooms

Health Robotics ASHP Midyear press release includes mention of RFID

I came across this press release yesterday. The press release is from Health Robotics, a company that builds and distributes automation and technology aimed squarely at the I.V. room. Their product line includes several robots designed for specialized I.V. room compounding, including i.v.STATION ONCO, i.v.STATION, CytoCare and TPNstation.

It looks like the company is taking advantage of recent events surrounding sterile I.V. preparation to promote the safety of robotic compounding. They will be presenting data from recent studies from various hospitals across U.S. This all makes sense. But what I found interesting was the quote from Gaspar DeViedma, Health Robotics’ EVP.

“… I invite all ASHP attendees to compare and contrast our company’s track record now yielding streamlined robotic “live” installations within 60 to 90 days from purchase order; new RFID solutions tracking temperature-controlled I.V. doses from the offsite sterile compounding sites to the hospital pharmacies, on to delivery carts and refrigerated cabinets and all the way to the patient; and finally to witness the new standards in Chemotherapy and Monoclonal Antibody Therapy IV Automation.”

The emphasis is mine. That part about RFID almost slipped past me when I first read it. RFID is gaining popularity in the pharmacy world. Health Robotics certainly has my attention. I’m curious to see what they’re up to. I hope to have an opportunity to visit their booth at Midyear. I’ll keep you posted.

Cool Pharmacy Technology – RxMedic ADS

The RxMedic ADS robot is kind of cool. I’m not a big fan of robotics because I think they’re basically slow and I don’t believe the technology is mature enough yet; in healthcare that is.

The thing that makes this interesting to me is the checkout process, which can be found at about 1:30 into the video. The process includes photo verification. Lends itself to remote checking and tech-check-tech, don’t you think?

As technology like this becomes available it is becoming increasingly clear that the traditional role of a pharmacist is obsolete. Not sure if the new role is a completely “clinical” one, but it certainly isn’t what it is now.

From the RxMedic website:

The only retail robotic dispensing system with photo verification. The RxMedic ADS packs high speed processing into a very small footprint. Its 256 cells enable you to fill as much as 80 percent of your daily processing, complete with verification, labeling and capping.

  • Interfaces with any pharmacy management system
  • Save 50% – 80% of time spent preparing orders
  • Can pay for itself in pharmacies with as few as 150 prescriptions per day
  • Fill up to 80% of your daily prescription volume
  • Special HEPA filtration combined with vacuum technology helps reduce dust and cross-contamination
  • Nationwide on-site service

Saturday morning coffee [August 18 2012]

So much happens each and every week that it’s hard to keep up sometimes. Here are some of the tabs that are open in my browser this morning along with some random thoughts….

The coffee mug to the right is my trophy for winning the 2010 ASHP Midyear Twitter contest. It was the second year in a row that I was voted winner of the Midyear tweeting contest. I have since retired. The mug was accompanied by a $50 Best Buy gift card. I can’t remember what I purchased with the gift card, but I’m sure it was something cool.

- The Bourne Legacy was the new #1 at the box office last weekend, knocking the Dark Knight Rises off its perch. My family and I saw it. It was good, but not great. I would see it again. The problem with a new Bourne movie is that Matt Damon is who I think of when someone says “Bourne” regardless of whether or not the movie is about his character. Don’t expect The Bourne Legacy to sit in the number one spot for long. I think The Expendables 2 will likely take over the top spot next week. I’ll certainly help it gain the title as it’s on my movie agenda for this weekend.
Continue reading Saturday morning coffee [August 18 2012]

Robots better than human surgeons? Maybe…maybe not.

MedPage Today: “Robotic prostatectomy has spread all over the U.S., despite the fact that we don’t have clinical trial data to show that it’s better than traditional open surgery. 

The company marketing the robotic surgery systems boasts on its website about news coverage from ABC’s “Good Morning America” and from CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  And, under a picture of a couple dancing, the manufacturer claims:

“Studies show patients who undergo a da Vinci Prostatectomy may experience a faster return of urinary continence following surgery … Several studies also show that patients who are potent prior to surgery have experienced a high level of recovery of sexual function (defined as an erection for intercourse) within a year following da Vinci Surgery.”

But a paper published by the Journal of Clinical Oncology concludes that:

Risks of problems with continence and sexual function are high after both (robotic and open prostatectomy). Medicare-age men should not expect fewer adverse effects following robotic prostatectomy.”

The article gives examples of complications following open (“normal”) surgery versus robotic surgery using Medicare claims data from 406 men that had robotic surgery and 220 that had open surgery. The data from the two groups looks surprisingly similar. In fact, the open surgery group had a larger percentage of respondents reporting no complications than did the robotic surgery group; although the difference may not be significant.

Ultimately the authors of the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggest that the reason for the popularity of robotic surgery may be “gizmo idolatry” is at play. The authors go one step further by calling out Medicare’s reimbursement for robotic prostatectomy, “The apparent lack of better outcomes associated with (robotic prostatectomy) also calls into question whether Medicare should pay more for this procedure until prospective large-scale outcome studies from the typical sites performing these procedures demonstrate better results in terms of side effects and cancer control.”

It makes one wonder where the line for reimbursement should be drawn. Should reimbursement be tied to evidence based outcomes? It’s a good question when you think about all the treatments we use everyday that may not have sufficient data to back them up. Does that mean we should only use evidence based treatment? No, that would limit our ability to try new therapies when others fail. Interesting debate nonetheless.

Cool Pharmacy Technology–Apoteca

I have a soft spot for robotics, especially for IV preparation. I’m not quite sure that pharmacy is ready to fully embrace the idea, but we’re well on our way.

APOTECAchemo is an IV preparation robot modeled in the image of i.v.STATION. Prior to yesterday I had not heard of APOTECA. Fortunately someone visiting my site left me a link to the U.S. website. The site contains limited information with the exception of the video below. However, a quick internet search led me to the Loccioni Humancare website where I was able to find additional information.

Continue reading Cool Pharmacy Technology–Apoteca

Cleanrooms – the forgotten realm of acute care pharmacy

Cleanroom environments, a.k.a. IV rooms, inside acute care pharmacies compound some of the most complex and dangerous medications used inside a hospital. Unfortunately this area is often overlooked when implementing safety features such as bar-code verification, identification of high-alert medications, advanced training and competency and so on. I was reminded of the dangers of intravenous products by a recent story coming out of Alabama where the death of 9 patients was linked to TPN (total parenteral nutrition) contaminated with Serratia marcenscens.

While IV rooms remain a high risk area they tend to fall off the radar of many hospital administrators when it comes to implementing technology capable of reducing risk. USP <797> tends to get all the glory even though much of the guidelines proposed in this USP chapter have yet to be shown any more effective than diligent hand washing and impeccable technique.
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“What’d I miss?” – Week of March 13, 2011

As usual there were a lot of things that happened over the past week, and not all of it was related to pharmacy automation and technology. Here are some of the things I found interesting.
Continue reading “What’d I miss?” – Week of March 13, 2011

Cool pharmacy technology – UCSF Robotics

UCSF: “Although it won’t be obvious to UCSF Medical Center patients, behind the scenes a family of giant robots now counts and processes their medications. With a new automated hospital pharmacy, believed to be the nation’s most comprehensive, UCSF is using robotic technology and electronics to prepare and track medications with the goal of improving patient safety.

Not a single error has occurred in the 350,000 doses of medication prepared during the system’s recent phase in.

Robotics is nothing new, but it seems like everyone is taking notice of the new robotics in the pharmacy at UCSF. I suppose all the people pointing it out to me has something to do with the fact that UCSF School of Pharmacy is my alma mater, but you never know. Anyway, I’m pleasantly surprised to see UCSF taking such an active role in advancing pharmacy practice. When I spoke with some colleagues sill working for UCSF a little over a year ago they were still practicing pharmacy invented in the dark ages. Not any more.

Now I’m trying to get a hold of someone at UCSF that will let me stop by for a tour, and all of a sudden no one knows me. Poetic justice I suppose.