On the job, six months as an independent

Through an interesting series of events over the past several months I’ve slowly transformed myself from an employee to an independent contractor, so to speak. I suppose I’ve officially become a consultant of sorts, but I’m not thrilled with the term “consultant”. My dislike for the term comes from my experience with consultants over the years. I’ve worked with many, but found few that were actually helpful. It’s obviously not fair to lump them all into the same basket, but those are the breaks.

Immediately after losing my job in July 2013 I tried to jump back into pharmacy, quickly realizing that it wasn’t going to happen. Fortunately I was able to piece together “full-time work” by combining some per diem hours at a local hospital and some ad hoc product management work for a small company working on a new pharmacy application. The hospital work was good, but limited to 10-20 hours per week for about three months. As luck would have it as the hospital job was coming to an end another small company building pharmacy software reached out and just like that I had a second job as an ad hoc product manager. Then a few hours helping a group with strategic planning, then a few hours on a marketing campaign, then some time analyzing state specific pharmacy laws, and so on.

I’ve had a fair number of inquiries from various companies covering a host of projects. Some turned into work, while others were nothing more than discussions. I’ve had to turn down two jobs due to various circumstances. Hopefully those circumstances will clear up later this year, which means I’ll be able to open myself up to another group of potential opportunities.

Truth be told I’ve entered the world of consulting completely by accident, and it turns out that I like it. I like it a lot. My schedule is flexible and within my control, and the variety of work prevents me from getting bored. I’ve also discovered that the companies that engage me have a desire to do good work. They’re looking for a fresh perspective and aren’t afraid to hear a different opinion. They’re motivated to build some really great products. I’ve been impressed with all the groups I’ve had the privilege to work with. They make rapid, decisive choices and move swiftly to make things happen. I respect that.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns. There are new things to worry about like paying my own taxes and getting health insurance for me and my family, but the positives clearly outweigh the negatives. Overall I’m enjoying the ride.

Cool Pharmacy Technology – Verification by MedKeeper

I had an opportunity to spend some time at MedKeeper headquarters in Westminster, CO last week. I’ve worked with MedKeeper before, but this was the first time I had the opportunity to visit the facility and meet their team.

MedKeeper is a company that makes several products for acute care pharmacy, specifically they develop software targeted at pharmacy operations. Some of you may know them for their medication tracking system, MedBoard.
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Drug monitoring in IV tubing using Raman spectroscopy

chemistryworld: “Recent research, led by Brian Cunningham at the University of Illinois in the US, has produced biomedical tubing that uses surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) to monitor the contents and concentrations of drugs within a patient’s IV line.  The plasmonic nanodome array surface enhances the Raman signals.  The tubing could detect 10 pharmaceutical compounds with reproducible signals for a period of up to five days. For four of the drugs, the signal magnitude was dependent upon the drug concentration and combinations of compounds could also be detected, giving a much more detailed picture of a patient’s medication.” – This is great work being done by the University of Illinois. I’ve contemplated something like this in the past.

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RFID vs barcode technologies

MedKeeper: “Based on similar use cases, the comparison between bar code and RFID technologies is inevitable. Several papers have reviewed the use of these technologies in hopes of defining best practice. Young concluded that a coordinated use of these technologies might provide the best compromise between implementation costs and potential benefits.   RFID technology, with its high cost, may be most appropriate for patient identification, while the lower cost of bar code systems may be more appropriate for material inventory.[3]

Sun et al.[4] arrived at a similar conclusion. In this case, the authors evaluated medication error reduction. Due to the high cost of RFID tags and readers the authors proposed a system utilizing less costly bar codes for unit-dose medications while using an RFID-embedded wristband worn by patients for identification.”
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Things get interesting as #Aesynt acquires Health Robotics

Business Wire: “Aesyntâ„¢ announced it has completed the acquisition of Health Robotics, the leading global supplier of automated technology for intravenous (IV) medication preparation, compounding and dispensing.”

For those of you that have short memories, Aesynt is basically a spin-off of the acute care pharmacy side of McKesson. It’s a big group that specializes in things like automated carousels, inventory management software, packaging and bar-coding technology, controlled substance management hardware and software, and a robotic distribution system, i.e. “the McKesson robot”.

Health Robotics is a company that specializes in IV room automation and technology. They have two robots: i.v.STATION for non-hazardous compounding and i.vSTATION ONCO for hazardous compounding, i.e. chemotherapy. Their robots compete with both Intelligent Hospital Systems – the RIVA robot – and APOTECAchemo. They also have i.v.SOFT, a workflow management system that competes against the likes of DoseEdge by Baxter, among others.

Someone at Aesynt has been paying attention. Interest in IV room technology has been steadily growing for the past few years, basically telegraphing the demand that we’re seeing today. This definitely puts Aesynt in a unique position in the acute care pharmacy space, especially when you consider that they also offer a point of care distribution system and something for anesthesia.

The acquisition of Health Robotics by Aesynt is sure to send some ripples through the world of pharmacy automation and technology. Grab some popcorn and settle back in your chair. As interest in the IV room continues to grow, and as companies begin to fight for market share, things are surely going to get interesting. Exciting stuff.