Several processes are still manually performed by hospitals today, from prescription to drug administration. These tasks are part of what we call "drug logistics chain", which covers reception, unitarization, storage, dispensation, delivery and administration to patients. Most hospital pharmacies are responsible not only for the execution of some of them, but they also need to deal with stock and return of unused medicines.
Manual labor employed in these tasks contributes to raise risks to patients and losses to hospitals. As examples, we can look at the considerable amount of time and resources spent on manually picking of unit doses and incomplete or non-existent drug traceability, besides rework events. Such facts not only increase patient care inefficiency, but also institution's financial losses. Across the world, more hospitals are discovering how new technologies can change this scenario, turning losses into gains. The drug management automation has become a worldwide trend, presenting a new hospital pharmacy model, which is much more advanced and highly efficient. These premium hospitals are already taking advantages from the automation processes, such as process improvements, cost reductions, health professional time saving and space facility optimization.
Among those premium hospitals, there is CHdN (Centre Hospitalier du Nord), with just over 350 beds and located at Ettelbruck city, Luxembourg. CHdN has implemented an automation solution from Sinteco, focusing on unit drug dose dispensing. The technology has brought more security and agility to all hospital's processes, turning drug logistics chain more flexible in order to provide specific requirements for each hospital area. By automating and making internal processes less bureaucratic, the results soon appeared as 15% of reduction on global drug acquisition and 60% of optimization on pharmacy's human resources. Additionally to the more efficient drug dispensing achievement, CHdN got great exposure of brand visibility across its regional public, becoming reference as health excellence service provider.
Facing challenges to manage large drug volumes, the automation helps to minimize pharmaceutical costs by damages, loss or expiry. The replacement of manual procedures to automated systems brings significant impact to the operational management. For example, picking drugs by robot can minimize, at least, 50% time-taken on prescription preparation in comparison with manually process, thereby reducing human resources used in this process.
When hospital has an automated and integrated logistic chain, it is possible to create a synergy among all its processes, reducing time gaps and simplifying procedures. The return drugs from the patient beds is a typical practical example that can be solved through an automatic system recognition without the need of manual checking or confirmation - both procedures that could extend the time needed to readjust stock and to revert patient's account.
Technology applied to the diverse logistic chain stages can build a complete historic, allowing a full traceability of the drugs inside hospitals - from its reception to its administration or return to the pharmacy. Then, this control contributes to expand the existing traceability (guaranteed by law in many countries) that goes from the supplier to the hospital’s receiving department. Once properly managed, the full traceability not only facilitates analysis and eventually investigations, but also brings more safety to processes and care patients.
A lot of hospitals have problems in keeping an accurate information about their stocks. Applying automation, this control can be optimized and depending on the level of this automation, it’s possible to have a real time inventory. In this scenario, stock management provides the support that health professional needs to accelerate their strategic and on time decisions, mainly because demands are calculated based on an accurate historic and with a preventive way. The use of robotic cabinets or similar automations provides many benefits, such as a personalized stock control by expiration date and quarantine order management.
Therefore the hospitalization growth and the complex routine, professionals often involved in the processes have less time to dedicate themselves to patient care at hospitals. In this sense, as the automation makes processes simpler and less bureaucratic, it’s possible to increase the available time of the health professional team for patient care. For instance, an automated hospital pharmacy enables pharmacists to dedicate more time available to prescription validation and clinical pharmacy tasks. Finally, by this greater availability time, health professionals add an extraordinary value to care of patients, following more their therapeutic treatment evolution.
Market Visibility and Recognition
The adoption of an automated management solution aimed at health services improvement, risk reduction, patient satisfaction increase and employees motivation creates great value to quality certification initiatives. Therefore, hospital investments in advanced technologies are recognized by its public, as well as generate large visibility in the market.
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