Children’s hospital pharmacy automation set to cut costs


The Texas Children’s Hospital uses the latest technology to dispense, store and administer medication.

With a automating The initiative is in full swing, Texas Children’s Hospital expects to reduce drug inventory costs by 16% per year.

“Right now we’re buying over $ 100 million a year, so 16% will be a big saving. It should almost pay off the cost of the automation right away, ”says Gee Mathen, assistant director of pharmaceutical applications and technical services at the Houston Hospital.

With the potential to improve the consistency and accuracy of dosing processes, pharmacy automation can improve patient safety– in particular in the context of pediatric care. Children’s hospitals care for a wide range of patients, from newborns to young adults, creating a need for dosing and flexibility for precisely calibrated drugs to produce a range of doses to suit each patient.

For example, Texas Children’s is about to start using IV robot technology in the hospital pharmacy that will prepare doses to be administered to patients. Automated technology will replace some of the efforts of human technicians.

“An IV robot can take a dose with an accuracy of up to 99.9%. A human only gets 97% to 98% accuracy in the best runs. This 3% variation in a pediatric facility is enormous. Sometimes that can mean the difference between life and death, ”says Mathen.

Adopt new technology

In addition to IV robot technology, Texas Children’s has installed or is adopting several other forms of pharmacy automation.

  • Next Generation Smart Pumps: At the bedside, the hospital installs the very latest smart pumps available for delivering medication to patients. With the new smart pumps, doses labeled with barcodes can be scanned into the pump, and the pump is automatically programmed with physician orders verified by the pharmacy.
  • Omnicell XT automated cabinets provide more usable space inside medication storage cabinets. In combination with the IV robot, the hospital will be able to fill the cabinets with prefabricated doses and having more than out of use meetings.
  • Omnicell XR2 Automated central pharmacy system: XR2 is expected to enable the hospital to improve inventory, purchasing and storage management. The goal of the hospital is to examine the total inventory and have a complete visual check. The system should also minimize the difficulties associated with backorders, such as maintaining multiple formulations.
  • Omnicell Performance center: This automated system will show exactly what pharmacological stock the hospital has.

Achieve cost savings

With the new technology, waste avoidance is expected to generate significant cost savings at Texas Children’s.

The hospital pharmacy distributes around 5,000 doses of medicine per day to patients in three buildings, and lost or missing doses are a major source of unnecessary expense, explains Mathen.

“Whenever a lost or missing dose occurs, we get a phone call from someone who has not received their dose. To be responsible to the patient, we dispense another dose. Ten minutes later we get another call and have to dispense another dose. . So for a dose that we can bill for, we gave out three doses. At least two of these doses will eventually be wasted. “

Problems with inventory control also result in unnecessary expense.

“We have drugs on the shelves that cost six million dollar vials,” says Mathen. “Can you imagine if those six vials just sat on a shelf and expired?” It’s already arrived. We want to get away from it. We want visibility on our inventory. “

Create staff flexibility

Texas Children’s automation initiative allows the hospital to redeploy human resources into the pharmacy, Mathen says. “We are not focusing on reduction, we are focusing on reallocation.”

With the IV robot configured to focus on commonly dispensed drugs, pharmacy technicians will have more time to produce specialized formulations, he says. “It frees up technician time to focus on more specialized doses such as chemotherapy and drugs that take a long time to dilute. “

The XR2 The automated central pharmacy system will reduce the time technicians spend removing drugs from storage carousels for distribution to patients, says Mathen.

“Without XR2, our technicians have to come in every morning, receive orders for over 200 Omnicell cabinets and see how many products are sold out and need refills,” he explains. “Then the technicians take an order, go to the carousel, remove each item from the carousel and put it in a bag. “

The automated system will be more efficient and allow the pharmacy to assign technicians to other tasks such as Quality control functions.

“With XR2, it can receive a feed in the middle of the night from an Omnicell cabinet indicating that it needs certain products, and XR2 can fill what is needed, pack it, label it and put it in a bin for a technician to choose the next morning, ”he says.

The keys to successful automation

Mathen is convinced that the Texas Children’s pharmacy automation initiative is doomed to success. “I have no doubts that we will surpass many of the benchmarks that we have set for ourselves,” he said.

The expected improvement in inventory capabilities is expected to result in a quantum leap for the hospital’s pharmacy operations.

“We’re going to be able to track inventory better. Until now, our inventory processes have been set up on carousels and Omnicell machines,” he said. “We haven’t had a good way to look at our inventory as well as our lot numbers and expiration dates. Much of this has been done manually.”

The automation initiative was launched with a solid foundation.

“You have to join the institution because the technology has a cost and it is a cost of capital,” explains Mathen. “You need buy-in from your department and you need to be able to support functionality when it comes into play. You need to minimize human contact – consistency is what we need in pharmacy. “

Texas Children expects to lead other children’s hospitals in pharmacy automation, he said. “The autonomous pharmacy is the pharmacy of the future. We can reduce repetitive tasks, we can achieve consistency from automated functionality, and we can bring robotics into play to ensure accuracy. “

Christopher Cheney is the editor of clinical care at HealthLeaders.


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