Recognition for automated drug-dispensing

New Plymouth hospital pharmacist Elizabeth Plant has won a Pharmacy Award for her introduction of automated drug-dispensing technology at wards in Taranaki Base Hospital and a satellite hospital at Hawera.

New Plymouth hospital pharmacist Elizabeth Plant has won a Pharmacy Award for her introduction of automated drug-dispensing technology at wards in Taranaki Base Hospital and a satellite hospital at Hawera.

This is the first introduction of the system in New Zealand.

The project was given the "supreme award" and the prize for the Innovation in Hospital Pharmacy category at the Pharmacy Awards. Although the technology itself is not new, Plant won the award for the process of selecting and introducing it, and for change management to deal with its introduction.

Supplied by US firm Axiom Health, the device, known as Pyxis, consists of a secure metal cabinet with a touchscreen terminal on top. A nurse brings up the patient record by keying and touching the screen. If the patient has been “profiled” – if they are on a regular regime of medication – Pyxis will bring up a list of those drugs.

The nurse touches on the line identifying a medication on the screen, and the appropriate drawer is unlocked. The machine indicates the pocket in the drawer where that medication is located.

For non-profile patients, where the drug is prescribed in case of need, for example in an emergency, the entire range of drugs has to be kept in the cabinet. This has connotations for safety and an exemption to the Misuse of Drugs Act had to be arranged.

Pyxis is interfaced to the patient management system and the costing and inventory applications, so the hospital can keep constant track of how much the prescribing is costing them.

Safety measures include having different dosage strengths of the same drug in different drawers, to avoid dosage mistakes.

Information is also collected and supplied to the doctors on their past prescribing, in comparison with their colleagues; so they can be aware if they are prescribing a different and more costly drug.

“This may have beneficial impact on costs,” Plant says, and wastage of drugs through expiry of stock will be minimised, “but I’m more excited about the safety issues.”

Pyxis may also in the long run save nurses time, “but we’re still in a [transitional] period on that”, she says.

The awards are jointly sponsored by Pharmacy Today magazine and pharmaceutical wholesaler and distributor Zuellig Pharma.

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