On the conveyor belts running behind the dispensing counters of Singapore General Hospital’s (SGH) renovated Outpatient Pharmacy are baskets of packed prescription medications. The pharmacist just needs to turn around, pick up the baskets, and is assured that they will contain the right medications ready for dispensing to the patient.
The design and implementation of this integrated system is a collaboration between SGH, Innotech Resources Pte Ltd, PSB Technologies Pte Ltd, EurekaPlus Pte Ltd, and Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS).
Previously, the packing process heavily relied on manual resources, making it susceptible to human errors such as packing the wrong drug or wrong strength. The incorporation of automation and technology to provide real-time tracking of processing status via RFID, complemented by LED guided pick of medication through barcode scanning, helps minimise the possibility of medication errors.
Before the implementation of the system in November 2012, packing and assembling of prescription medications was labour intensive, time-consuming, and very dependent on trained manpower. Pharmacy technicians had to criss-cross the drug storage areas to locate and pack patients’ prescription medications item by item. Packed medications were then placed into baskets, checked and sorted according to queue sequence, before pushing out for dispensing to patients.
With the new system in place, Pharmacy technicians are now stationed to pick from a fixed range of medications on the shelves, where drug labels are printed. A simple scan of the barcode on the drug label lights up the LED for the drug bin, and guides the Pharmacy technician to the correct drug bin, improving safety and the efficiency of the packing process.
How does the Automated RFID Prescription Drug Delivery System work?
- The patient presents his prescription at the registration counter
- It will be reviewed by a pharmacist
- The prescription is then placed in an RFID-tagged basket and placed on the conveyor belt, triggering the packing process.
Medications are concurrently packed either through automation or manually via LED-guided pick. Boxed and blister-packed medications are picked and packed by two Drug Dispensing Systems (DDS) units developed by SGH and Getech Automation Pte Ltd. For medications that require manual picking, Pharmacy technicians scan the barcode on the drug label and are guided by LED light to the drug location for the medication.
All packed medications are placed into RFID-tagged baskets and then onto the 110-meter long conveyor. RFID readers strategically located along the conveyor belt confer real-time tracking of the position and processing stage. Once all the baskets with medications belonging to the same prescription are detected on the conveyor belt, they will be auto-assembled and auto-channelled to the next available dispensing counter based on the queue sequence.