HUS Pharmacy is being automated

HUS Pharmacy is preparing for the pharmaceutical challenges of the future by automating pharmaceutical storage and picking. Next year’s list of purchases includes a drug preparation robot.

Pharmacist Kerstin Carlsson of HUS Pharmacy | Oriola

Hospital pharmacies are undergoing radical changes, and the rate is accelerating, says pharmacist Kerstin Carlsson of HUS Pharmacy, Finland’s largest hospital pharmacy. She is currently coordinating a reform that may be the most extensive ever.

“There’s a lot of new construction going on in our area: the new Children’s Hospital will be completed next year, and the Trauma and Cancer Centres will be housed in the new Bridge Hospital that will soon be constructed. In order for HUS Pharmacy to serve the hospitals in its area in the manner required, it will need picking and storage automation, electronic medicine cabinets and the release of staff resources for clinical pharmaceutical work,” she says.

According to Carlsson, another factor contributing to the changes in HUS Pharmacy is the Government’s social welfare and healthcare reform in Finland.

“We don’t know yet what the Government’s reform will require from us and how many hospital pharmacies there will eventually be in Finland. But it’s possible that the role of HUS Pharmacy will be nationally more extensive than today.”  

A number of challenges

Carlsson wants to emphasise that preparation of drugs is demanding manual work.

“All the organ transplant operations in Finland are conducted in HUS hospitals, for example, and various organ storage and processing solutions are needed. And the Children’s Hospital treats the most difficult diseases, which means that they also need competence in preparation of drugs. And the number of eye patients is increasing, which also sets new challenges.”

The pharmaceutical and clinical pharmaceutical services of the City of Helsinki were transferred to HUS Pharmacy early this year. It created new kinds of challenges in the operation of HUS Pharmacy, says Carlsson.

“HUS Pharmacy is now using a picking and storage machine that is located in new underground premises. This has helped us serve our new customers.”

In addition to the introduction of new picking and storage automation, about a dozen employees, who transferred from the City of Helsinki Hospital Pharmacy to HUS Pharmacy, were provided with orientation.

“We also invited pharmaceutical companies to tender for our entire selection and launched the new pharmaceutical selection in January this year, so there have been massive changes.”  

Ward pharmacy services on the increase

Above all, automation has boosted the safety of pharmaceutical storage and picking, says Carlsson. The success rate of the picking and storage machine is as high as 99.8 per cent.

“Reliable picking and storage automation releases pharmaceutical resources for other tasks, primarily clinical pharmacy. We need pharmacists for the ward pharmacy services and pharmaceutical information work. Clinical pharmacy is also more meaningful work for pharmacists than pharmaceutical storage and picking.”

According to Carlsson, the need for ward pharmacy services has rocketed in recent years. HUS Pharmacy currently employs over 50 ward pharmacists, and ward pharmacy services are used by over a hundred wards both in special and basic healthcare in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

“The latest thing is our pharmaceutical security check service. Our pharmacist checks the patient’s list of medicines for side effects and interactions, indications, dosage, administration times, any overlap, missing medicines and compliance. The service is tailored to the needs of the patient or unit.”

Close partnership

Carlsson says that behind the current and future changes in HUS Pharmacy is the goal to build the best hospital pharmacy infrastructure in the world.

“Our target is not in the year 2020 but much further in the future. The purpose of pharmaceutical services is to support excellent healthcare. Close partnership with pharmaceutical wholesalers is vital. Electronic data transfer, such as electronic dispatch lists and rebates, is also essential.”

The digitalisation between the pharmaceutical wholesalers and HUS Pharmacy saves us a lot of manual work.

Text: Essi Kähkönen
Photo: Vesa Tyni