How Automation Is Helping with Health Care
Sophisticated machines are playing an ever-increasing role in healthcare and their use is helping to reduce human errors and keep people healthy. As you read this, there are incredible pieces of machinery being employed in pharmacies, hospitals and even in private homes to do some pretty incredible stuff.
Pills, pills, pills…
The next time you take a trip to the pharmacy, see if you can spot a robot filling prescriptions. The very idea sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but pharmacy robots are becoming increasingly common sights in large chains. They aren’t about to steal jobs from pharmacists, but they can be used to fill more prescriptions in less time. One such manufacturer based in the Montreal region is Synergy Medical. They have developed an amazing robotic machine which automates blister-card preparation and enables the pharmacy to greatly increase safety. Medications are automatically selected, counted and placed in the blisters, while the pharmacy’s management system sends the prescriptions to the robot electronically. The resulting reliability is clearly superior to that of the manual preparation method.
In the hospital environment, companies like Aesynt have developed other machines to manage the pharmacy practice in an institutional setting, even packaging individual dose pills for patients and labeling them, too. Studies have shown that these robots make fewer mistakes than technicians or pharmacists, so their use cuts down on medication errors and provides a more accurate inventory management and control.
Measuring patient vitals has long been a responsibility of nurses, their assistants or technicians in hospitals, but we’re now entering an era where machines can handle the work. In the past, they would record the body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate of their patients every few hours. When they do rounds to collect vital signs, very often record them on paper, and enter the information into electronic medical records after all patients’ vitals have been collected – a potentially error-prone task.
In more and more hospitals, machines are now collecting vitals. And these devices aren’t just collecting data a few times a day. Instead, they collect information 24 hours a day. This helps to paint a more complete picture of a patient’s health and it also allows staff to devote their time to other tasks. Moreover, the automated data collection is immediately and accurately integrated into the patient record. Anomalies can be flagged and electronic notifications delivered to the appropriate party. There’s never a shortage of work to be done, so the increased efficiency offered by these automated tools now allow nurses to help more patients and allow the whole medical system to respond more quickly to those in need.
For the patient and at home…
Sophisticated machines like those described above aren’t only being used in pharmacies and hospitals. In fact, devices that can dispense pills and keep track of vitals are now being used in smaller care facilities including residences and private homes. RxPense® is one such device. Its abilities are numerous, but it mainly serves as a pill dispenser that assures that patients receive the right medication at the right time. In fact, the blister packs filled by the automated robots we discussed above, can simply be inserted, identified and secured in the RxPense®, completing the patient medication delivery lifecycle. The pills are automatically removed from the individual blister pack, only at the right time, for the right patient. Seniors or those with arthritic conditions no longer have to poke, prod, cut or damage their medications in an attempt to remove them from their packaging.
I can’t begin to tell you how many emails I have received from pharmacists and physicians about how their patients could not peel off or open their pill package and used a used a knife or scissors to penetrate it, resulting in pills scattered all over the floor or sink and subsequently lost.
The RxPense® automatically opens the packages and safely delivers the correct dose. In addition, it has different ways of reminding a person to take their medication and it can even alert caregivers if someone fails to take their pills. It helps to assure medication adherence and this keeps folks from having to be admitted to hospital as a consequence of failing to their pills as prescribed. Admissions due to non-adherence have been established as major, unnecessary drains on the healthcare system, so they need to be addressed. Expanding the use of the RxPense® device and other similar machines would be a good step in combating the problem.