The Adherence Advantage: SynMed Automation Gives Flexibility in Multidose Dispensing (2 of 3)

An Interview with Synergy Medical's Jean Boutin | Part Two of Three

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By Maggie Lockwood

In this segment on the multidose filling system by Synergy Medical, founder Jean Boutin explains to ComputerTalk’s Maggie Lockwood the system’s unique position and dispensing trays employed by the system; the interface with pharmacy management systems; and the factors that drive automation and pharmacists should consider when evaluating automated packaging systems. Second of three parts.

CT: Tell us a little bit about the positioning and dispensing trays and how they differ from other systems.

Jean Boutin: The technology developed for automating blister card preparation is very interesting.  First of all, the trays used in the SynMed device are shaped to accommodate the type or types of cards selected by the pharmacist. This allows the operator to position multiple blank cards depending on the format selected. Each tray can accommodate  eight Dispill-USA cards, 10 RxMap cards or 12 Drug Package cards. Once the cards are in position, the operator follows the sequential numbering printed on each blister in the tray and uses the SynMed-Assist software to position any exception drugs; for example, medications that are not contained in the device, such as half tablets. This unique method of combining multiple cards in a tray makes the manual positioning of exception drugs a lot more efficient. The software prompts the operator to select an exception drug bottle. The operator then positions the medication for all cards that require it. There is no need to repeat the selection and positioning operation for each card that is being prepared. When we compare this with to manipulating one card at a time, this method of consolidating several cards in one tray is eight, 10 or 12 times more productive, depending on the number of cards in the tray. Once the exception drugs have been positioned, automated production begins, again consolidating multiple trays. This means that an operator can prepare the exception drugs for the next tray while the robotic production is in progress.

One important safety consideration is the positioning of hazardous exception drugs such as cytotoxic drugs. The way to position exception drugs that I described ensures that the operator places the medications directly in the patient’s blister card.  Unlike other technologies that require all medications to be dispensed through the same chute, the SynMed method means that an operator can position such medications directly in the appropriate patient’s blister card, eliminating the potential risks of cross-contamination.

CT: How does the SynMed interface with the pharmacy management system?

Boutin: The pharmacy management system selects a group of patients and a dispensing cycle. Cycles can vary with the customers and card selected. The most common cycles are 7, 14, 28 and 30 days.  A file that contains all the prescriptions for a selected group is created in the pharmacy management system and sent by the network to the SynMed computer. The computer analyzes the file contents, generates a set of commands for the robotic system and prints the labels for the required cards. A series of validations are done during the analysis, including the validity of the expiry dates, to check the medications stored in the device can cover the dispensing period to the last dispensing date. The SynMed system is interfaced with most of the suppliers in the pharmacy management system now used in the U.S. The file structure is straightforward and often compatible with the interfaces of automated systems that are already in use.

CT: How does the SynMed interface with the pharmacy management system?
Boutin:
The pharmacy management system selects a group of patients and a dispensing cycle. Cycles can vary with the customers and card selected. The most common cycles are 7, 14, 28 and 30 days.  A file that contains all the prescriptions for a selected group is created in the pharmacy management system and sent by the network to the SynMed computer. The computer analyzes the file contents, generates a set of commands for the robotic system and prints the labels for the required cards. A series of validations are done during the analysis, including the validity of the expiry dates, to check the medications stored in the device can cover the dispensing period to the last dispensing date. The SynMed system is interfaced with most of the suppliers in the pharmacy management system now used in the U.S. The file structure is straightforward and often compatible with the interfaces of automated systems that are already in use.

CT: What are the factors driving automation that pharmacists should consider when selecting an automated packaging system?

Boutin: The acquisition of an automated system is a significant investment. The pharmacist and his staff will work with it for several years, so it’s important to make the right choice. Here’s what I suggest you consider when acquiring new technology:

  • A proven system: You don’t want to spend time correcting gaps or flaws or waiting for them to be corrected. Your resources are valuable and the opportunity for growth is now within your reach; every day counts, otherwise your competition may seize that opportunity.
  • Request access to the full list of clients who are using the technology you are considering, not just the ones your supplier refers you to. Take the time to consult these clients to get a real sense of their satisfaction with the supplier and the technology.
  • Select one or more clients with an environment similar to yours and ask if you can pay a visit to this pharmacy. Most owners will express their satisfaction with their acquisition. Take the time to critique every aspect of the production, from receipt of the file to the positioning of exception drugs to printing versatility to the security of the method used to facilitate verification. All these steps are integral to the system you are being offered and affect safety and productivity.
  • Lastly, speak with your customers you are are switching to the proposed dispensing method to verify they will use it. It’s frustrating to invest thousands of dollars in a system only to quickly realize that a mere portion of your customers will embrace the automated solution you have selected. If they refuse to switch to the proposed cards, you will find yourself in the position, even after making a substantial investment, of having to continue some of your activities manually. Some solutions are more universally accepted. CT

Read the first part of the interview here

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