Difficulty collecting information on pharmacy technology

I’ve been collecting information on pharmacy IV room systems for the better part of the past eight months. I’m talking about system designed to help pharmacists not only manage their IV room workflow, but also help with safety, efficiency, documentation, and so on.

These systems are becoming more and more popular these days as the powers to be, i.e. the FDA and pharmacy boards are about to get heavy handed with pharmacy IV rooms.

For the most part I’ve placed these systems in two broad categories: 1) automated, i.e. robotic, and 2) manual. The manual systems are likely more well known and are by far the most widely used of the two categories. Most pharmacies looking for help in their IV rooms will almost certainly look at manual systems before investigating robotics, unless they have a compelling need for a robot in the cleanroom.

As I collect information on each and every one these systems I’m beginning to realize that there is precious little good information available. The literature is lightly dusted with articles on this general topic. Forget about specific information on any given system. It’s been quite a task.

The general process looks something like this:

  1. Search the literature – Yeah, about that. See comment above.
  2. Visit vendor website – Information is limited and vague to say the least. Forget about getting any good detailed information. Oh, and don’t forget that the information put on the company’s website is designed to separate you from your money, not be helpful.
  3. Call the vendor and ask to speak with their product manager, or similar product specialist. This has been surprising helpful and eye-opening. Some vendors have been very helpful by speaking with me on the phone, giving me personal demos of their product, answering direct questions in the form of email, etc. A couple of vendors have been refreshingly frank and transparent with me, which is greatly appreciated. I’ll remember that. On the other hand I’ve had some companies refuse to give me the time of day or try to blow sunshine up my ass. Some people think they’re talking to an ignorant moron. I’m not. If you lie to me I’ll find out, especially if the lie “feels” feels like a lie. It’s ok if your product doesn’t spin gold.
  4. Site visit – This is where the rubber meets the road. I’ve reached out to several hospitals about visiting their IV rooms to see this technology in action. Most have been very accommodating, which is greatly appreciated. I’ll remember that. Some healthcare systems simply blew me off when I requested to visit . I’ll remember that.

I’ve had two major epiphanies since starting my quest for knowledge about these systems:

First, I’ve realized that my knowledge about these systems was limited. I thought I knew quite a bit about the technology available for the IV room. I was wrong. All these systems have their strengths and weaknesses, and each has a compelling reason to be considered.

Second, my opinion about some of these systems has changed drastically during my research. In fact I’ve completely flopped on some of the opinions I formed just six months ago. Some of the systems have moved up on my draft board, while others have fallen; some significantly. My choice of system today would be much different than when I started this journey.

All this makes me ponder how facilities are making their choices today. I doubt most are doing their due diligence by investigating their needs versus what’s out there in the market. I would wager that a majority of pharmacies are making the wrong choice. Scary.

2 thoughts on “Difficulty collecting information on pharmacy technology”

  1. I was just doing similar research. I’m a pharmacy director for a home infusion pharmacy & in my spare time I read a lot of tech articles, it’s fascinating how technology can change an industry. I don’t think robotic IV compounders are cost effective for most pharmacies yet…but I do think robotics will define the future of prescription filling.

  2. I agree with your comment about robotics, Hamid. Probably another 10 years before they’re good enough to take on a bulk of the compounding responsibilities.

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