By Maggie Lockwood
Synergy Medical Founder Jean Boutin saw that while pharmacists were eager to meet their customers’ rising demand for multidose blister packs, they quickly realized how painstaking and error-prone dispensing in the cards the task could be. With a background in automation after working at Baxter, Boutin says he has looked for more ways to promote the concept of automated pouch packaging. In January 2008, he assembled engineers and programmers to build an automated system that gives independent pharmacies serving retail customers, skilled nursing and assisted-living facilities as well as large centralized production centers, a way to fill thousands of orders for patients each week, with a simplified and accelerated verification process. Here Jean Boutin speaks with ComputerTalk’s Maggie Lockwood about SynMed.
CT: Jean, please tell us about our background and what led you to develop SynMed.
Boutin: Over the past 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work in the automation sector in a variety of pharmaceutical settings. I started with Baxter, the first company to import automated pouch systems in the U.S. Although many companies have tried to promote the concept of automated pouch packaging, I realized that a significant number of pharmacies continued to package multidose blister packs manually. Studies have shown that having medication dispensed in time-specific packs led to substantial increases in medication adherence and persistence. Receiving medications grouped by day and time, according to the pharmacist’s instructions, in a personalized blister card including clear, precise information, is perfect for aging patients and anyone who has to take a number of medications. The ease of use of blister cards appeal to individual caregivers and their families. It’s also an interesting option for institutional caregivers who are looking for a safer, more efficient dispensing method than conventional methods such as vials or single-dose cards.
Although pharmacists were eager to meet their customers’ rising demand for such a method, they quickly realized how painstaking and error-prone the task could be. This quickly led to a call for precise and efficient technology.
With this in mind, Synergy Medical set up a team of engineers and computer experts and installed the first SynMed system in January 2008. Since then, 160 system units have been installed in a variety of environments in the United States, Canada and Europe. From independent pharmacies serving retail customers to skilled nursing and assisted-living facilities to large centralized production centers that cater to thousands of patients each week, all pharmacies have enjoyed safe, substantial growth in their respective markets.
CT: When did you come to the US market and what has been the reception from independents?
Boutin: The first U.S. installation was In 2011. Calvin Knowlton, a New Jersey pharmacist and owner of CareKinesis, visited Canada and was impressed by the SynMed’s capacity for serving the various markets: patients at home, long-term care facilities and nursing homes. The day after his visit, Mr. Knowlton placed an order for his first SynMed robotic system. Today he has five of them, which prepare medications for thousands of patients.
CT: What makes the SynMed a good fit for handling increased multidose packaging?
Boutin: With 400 containers available to a pharmacy SynMed provides efficiency and precision. A recent study of medications dispensed by pharmacies, medications listed in order of decreasing volume, reveals that a minimum of 350 different drugs must be stocked in order to handle 98% of the volume dispensed. It stands to reason that any system with fewer containers will be unable to handle production flow. If the staff has to impeded because the he will be required to focus on manipulation tasks rather than on the production pre-check process. SynMed requires minimal floor space since the top 400 drugs are in the system, minimizing the need for shelf space to store containers. At the pre-sealing verification stage, the operator can interrupt the process to make the necessary corrections. With no need to open a sealed card, make changes and then re-seal the card, staff can save valuable time and enjoy greater flexibility in pre-checking mode.
SynMed has a production rate of 30 cards an hour based on an average of eight prescriptions per patient. This is the equivalent of 110 pills per card. A single operator can achieve this rate, including pre-checking and sealing times. The Synergy philosophy is to remain neutral with respect to the choice of blister card supplier. Since the pharmacy isn’t required to use a SynMed proprietary card format, the pharmacy’s clientele can continue to receive a familiar-looking product; as a result, staff will not have to spend precious time explaining a new presentation to customers. Future card purchasing negotiations should be made easier since the pharmacy will not have to deal with a sole supplier. SynMed connects to a commercial printer, giving the pharmacy flexibility with printing fonts and display options. For example, the pharmacy can chose to print a patient’s picture and specific information about their medication in a color-coded card, greatly enhances the safety of medication administration. CT