Cool Pharmacy Technology – Vaccine Smart-Fridge

The Vaccine Smart-Fridge is an interesting concept for ambulatory care. It appears to be a consignment vaccine distribution system. Reminds me of a refrigerated single-point automated dispensing cabinet (ADC).

There’s a lot to like here.

By using a consignment model, the vendor offers an ambulatory care clinic low cost, low risk access to vaccines. It also decreases the chance of something sitting in the cabinet beyond it expiration date, or going bad because the temperature is out of range. The company supplying the items has a vested interested in making sure that everything inside those refrigerators is ready for use, and that waste is kept to a minimum.

I believe that the consignment model for pharmaceuticals will only continue to grow. The largest budget item in many pharmacy is inventory, by a wide margin. Refrigerated medications seem to be the main target for consignment, but it’s possible that the model could creep into other spaces as well, especially with the introduction of biosimilars.

The system provides real-time alerts on inventory shortages and temperature. Automated temperature monitoring ensures that things stay within their appropriate temperature range. Heat is bad for lots of medications, especially vaccines. This information can be viewed from a computer or mobile device. I like that it’s proactive.

Single-item access is a great concept for an ADC. This style of distribution is frequently used for controlled substances – morphine, fentanyl, etc. It provides better security than open access trays, drawers, and bays, thus minimizing opportunity for diversion. Does it make sense for everything? No, not really, but in this case it fits.

The system provides access to real time analytics and historical dispensing data. This information could be linked to other systems for easy access to vaccination records.

Pharmaceutical refrigeration is in need of a little disruption, so when I see something like this I’m encouraged that someone is thinking about it. There’s nothing new about this technology, but it does provide a new paradigm to think about.

6 thoughts on “Cool Pharmacy Technology – Vaccine Smart-Fridge”

  1. While I agree that the device itself is very interesting, I think the consignment model in health organizations is a bad idea. Here are some potential problems, off the top of my head:
    -These systems could give manufacturers a foothold in your organization and an influence on your distribution system, which might indirectly encourage inappropriate use.
    -Manufacturers would probably collect data trough these systems, and getting access to this data could be problematic. Interfacing the fridges with other systems would probably be impossible.
    – In a consignment system, a drug shortage would imply swapping fridges or establishing parallel distribution processes for substitution products.

    Smart fridges are a good idea, but I’d prefer managing them myself.

  2. Cool Vaccine Smart-Frigerator/Freezer

    This automated vaccine dispenser from Boston-based, Weka Solutions ( is intriguing, but I’m wondering if it is “automation overkill”?

    It appears that all of the dispensing drawers are product-specific and that the products must be single-dose. Otherwise, what happens with a multi-dose vial? The user assumes that the product dispensed from a given drawer is the correct product, but what mechanism is used to ensure that the correct products are loaded in the respective dispensing drawer (e.g., barcode scanning)? Also, how does the system track the expiration and lot information and how is this information shared with the clinical system to document individual patient vaccine administration (ideally, that should include lot number information)?

    If I were designing a solution, I would RFID tag single and multi-dose vaccines and design a simple, manual drawer based, RFID refrigerator and freezer cabinet.

    User Process:

    (1) The user would login with a biometric identification system with a smartphone-based app.

    (2) The user would then pre-select what vaccine that they want to give to a specific patient.

    (3) The cabinet, refrigerator and/or freezer, would unlock and the handheld device would direct them to the correct storage location(s) and the user would then remove the desired vaccine(s) and close the cabinet door.

    (4) Upon closing the RFID cabinet would confirm that what was removed matched what the user desired for the patient. If not, the user would be alerted and requested to correct problem (e.g., wrong vaccine selected).

    (5) Since each tagged item is serialized, this approach would allow for a multi-dose vial to be removed, used, and returned to the cabinet with full knowledge of what has been removed, by whom, and what volume remains. The tags would also know the lot and expiration date for all items, include the BUD for opened multi-dose items.

    (6) Restocking would be much simplified, since the RFID cabinet would be confirming all stocking without human involvement.

    Now, that’s what I call “a COOL vaccine dispenser”…!!!

  3. It’s amazing how many people think they can build a better mousetrap. I see that you’re no exception, Ray.

  4. Hello Jerry,

    We are a US-based global business development company, and have several serious inquiries for a smart fridge / freezer. Besides Weka, are there any players we can reach out to? Your advice is much appreciated.


  5. Jay,
    I think that depends on what you’re calling a smart fridge/freezer. This article is based on work done by Weka. There’s also Terso in Wisconsin and MEPS in Carlsbad, CA.

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