Five Reasons IoT Technology Can Improve Pharmacies

Anthony Melanson  -  Jul 8, 2016

The healthcare industry is infamous for its resistance to change. Even so, experts are projecting that the Internet of Things is equipping the industry for progress at an unprecedented speed.

Healthcare has been relegated to a series of innovations that have been about preserving the status quo…,” says Goldman Sachs research analyst David Roman.  “Where the Internet of Things becomes interesting is it has the potential to totally change the way US healthcare works.” In Mobile Medicine, the Internet of Things Meets Health Care, he projects the birth of an IoT health industry which could reach $30 billion.

There are six compelling reasons pharmacies will be one of the primary beneficiaries of healthcare IoT.

RELEVANCY: Along with the popularity of IoT technology, is a conflicting undercurrent of skepticism. The Internet of Useless Things is a prime example of the temptation to connect objects and processes with no real benefit to anyone. In Five Design Principles for the Internet of Relevant Things, Rick Bouter entreats companies to “be relevant to your own business strategy and customers; and gain competitive advantage out of the Internet of Things. Connecting the right things is the very first step to reach this ambition.”

Aethon’s MedEx™ Pharmacy Suite (MedSafe, TubeSafe and TraySafe) easily passes the relevancy test. Certainly, patient medications are relevant. Narcotics are relevant. Hospital crash carts with expiring or lot-controlled medications are relevant. Aethon makes these highly relevant “things” trackable.

INVENT OR IMPROVE: In its parody site The Internet of Useless Things, creative technology company +rehabstudio states “the fundamental technologies of IoT bring opportunities to invent new categories of product and service, offering real improvements to quality of life and convenience. For a new IoT product to succeed in an existing category it must extend the purpose of an existing product in a way that adds value.” In the case of the MedEx Pharmacy Suite, the medication delivery mechanism, where that mechanism is and who accessed it is as important as the contents.

IoT technology MedEx™ MedSafe manages order preparation and courier delivery tracking and ensures chain-of-custody delivery. MedSafe allows pharmacy departments to electronically verify the preparation of medications by scanning the order and then the NDC code on the medication. This ensures the correct medication is assigned to the order.

Another IoT success, MedEx™ TraySafe automates hospital crash cart tray replenishment, tracks expiration and lot information, and allows the pharmacy to control and track the distribution of inventory. It ensures the tray is correctly configured with all material in the correct location in the tray.

DESIGNED FOR USERS: Not unlike any other technology, the customer experience will determine the success of an IoT technology.  If it’s too difficult or expensive to implement and extract the benefit, the IoT implementation will not be as ubiquitous as it could be – and ubiquity is ultimately the hallmark of IoT success. One way to ensure a positive customer experience is to use standards or existing products where and how they exist.  Standards allow greater ubiquity.

In the case of MedEx™ TubeSafe technology, Aethon leverages the customer’s existing pneumatic tube systems for secure medication delivery, while eliminating missing doses that cause interruptions and waste; ensuring total chain-of-custody of medication deliveries, confirming receipt of medications by nursing and generating compliance documentation. Aethon’s MedSafe technology utilizes existing NDC codes, and TraySafe differs from RFID-based solutions since it uses imaging and standard 2D bar code labels to automate tray replenishment.

DATA DRIVEN IMPROVEMENT: IoT technology generates copious amounts of data. It’s vital that gathered data should be useful for decision-making and improvements.  In Tracking Everything Everywhere: How The Internet Of Things Is Changing The Logistics Industry, Forbes Magazine says, “Real-time insight enables greater efficiency and better customer service. With the emergence of lower cost, always connected, location-aware devices, the current generation of mobile technology allows logistics companies to move beyond simply making existing processes better, by making it possible to dynamically track both vehicles and the packages they carry.”

The same applies to hospital pharmacy logistics. For example, detailed reporting about medication distribution can help a pharmacy improve staffing levels in the pharmacy or pharmacy staff in the nursing unit.  The usage history of medications used in crash cart trays can improve inventory utilization and reduce costs by comparing what is being used with how the tray is stocked.

SECURITY: According to a new market research report Internet of Things (IoT) Security Market by Technology – Global Forecast to 2021 published by MarketsandMarkets, The IoT Security Market is estimated to grow from $7.90 Billion in 2016 to $36.95 Billion by 2021, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 36.1%. The report also reveals that Identity Access Management (IAM) holds the largest share of the IoT security market. IAM solutions provide a security structure and allow the management of user identity and related access permissions in an automated fashion. The report projects that managed services in the services segment will witness the highest growth rate due to the growing need of organizations to meet different regulatory compliances.

Hospital pharmacy departments are under significant operational pressure due to security and compliance mandates. The IoT technology provided by the MedEx™ Pharmacy Suite does much to simplify and increase efficiency in these critical security areas.