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Automation & Robotics in Healthcare – More personal touch, less human error

Medicine is a personal matter and the talk in recent years has been about a transition to personalized medicine. Research is done to map genes and find ways to trigger them or shut them down, medications are developed to suit specific DNA and in general, there is a recognition that we are all unique. Each person, each body, is different and therefore needs a different approach when it comes to well-being and healing.

When we think of that, talking about Automation and Robotics in medicine seems counterintuitive. It seems like we’re trying to take the “person” out of “personal”, but this is not the case. Automation can actually support personalized medicine in more ways than one. You see, we all make mistakes. We’re human after all. But in some cases, our human error can cost someone their life. Especially in medicine.

There is therefore a need to reduce or even eliminate human error, while still maintaining the personalization. In other words – allow the personal touch without the human touch, in medicine.

This is not to say that Automation is to replace doctors and nurses. Quite the opposite! Automation should become a tool that helps them, reduces stress and becomes a decision-making aid. Automation can also quicken certain actions that are time sensitive.

More specifically, I am talking about Automation in medication preparation, dosing and dispensing. Once a doctor prescribes a medication it needs to be prepared correctly (correct medication, correct dilution and dose) and then administered (to the right patient and at the right timing).

Especially in a very stressful hospital setting, using a robotic device to automatically prepare the doses and dispense them based on a computerized prescription, significantly cuts down time and enhances the safety of the patients by ensuring very accurate doses. This is already a great improvement to the manual way things are done today. Applying the same approach to the hospital’s nuclear pharmacy (where doses are prepared for diagnostic tests and for chemotherapy – so radioactive and toxic substances), and you also enhance the safety of the medical staff by reducing their exposure to hazardous materials.

Now, take this same robot and place it, not just in the hospital pharmacy, ward or ER, but also in any other pharmacy, like a medication dispensing ATM and you’ve also made the pharmacy’s work more efficient and the patient’s lives better.

To do this though, the automated robotic solutions need to be small in frame and size, they need to be cost-effective and not too expensive to purchase, they must be easy to operate and maintain, not necessitating special training and a big learning curve and they must fit into the already existing infrastructure and workflow so that no dramatic changes be made to the actual room/building they’re in. They also need to allow manual work alongside the automated operation to allow for adjustments and even faster dispensing. That said, they also still need to be safe and protective against hazardous or nuclear substances.

Automate solid medication dispensers (pills) are already on the market and most of them fit the description above. With liquid medications (that go into syringes or IV bags), however, the situation is different. Most existing solutions are cumbersome, very big (room size sometimes) and extremely expensive. They require special installations and training before they can be used and sometimes even the disposables used (the actual syringes and IV bags) must be custom to the dispenser, resulting in more expenses and complication of the work process. In other words, this is Automation that hinders treatment rather than facilitates it.

This is why we set out to change the way automation is done in the medical device world and deliver a complete end-to-end IoT solution for liquid medication dispensing. We want our automation to save lives, so we made sure it is small, fast, easy, inexpensive, safe and fully integrated with software and connected to everything. We connect the doctor to the pharmacist to the patient to allow true personalized (and fast) accurate treatment.

[Originally posted on LinkedIn by Gilad Einy, CEO and Co-Founder of RescueDose]