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Expanding robot technology from our hospital to the community to improve the way patients receive medication

MORE of our intermediate care patients are benefiting from a project that brings together robot technology and the expertise of pharmacy colleagues to dispense medication speedily and safely.

Following a successful trial on the Pendleton Suite at Salford Royal, PillTime has now been extended into the community to our 29-bedded facility within Heartly Green Intermediate Care Unit.

Our Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) and Future Digital teams have been instrumental in bringing the innovation to life.

They are currently finalising plans to roll it out to a second community facility at the Limes Intermediate Care Unit next week (Monday April 8).

As well as ensuring our patients receive the right medication on time, every time, nurses have told us it is saving them time on each medication trolley round.

With this latest stage of the pilot, it is also hoped that it will improve the discharge process and increase medication adherence afterwards.

Core to our project is a fully-functional PillTime dispensary – featuring a robot and optical checker – which has been set up in our pharmacy department. Its launch followed a comprehensive training programme for staff.

Here, the robot collates different patient medication and dispenses it in individual, sealed pouches in the order it needs to be taken.

Each one is checked by advanced image recognition technology as well as highly-trained pharmacy colleagues to ensure the highest possible level of accuracy.

To eliminate confusion, each pouch is clearly labelled with the name of the patient as well as the day, date and time the dose has to be taken, the description of the tablet and the expiry – a further layer of safety welcomed by nurses taking part in the trial.

Although the initiative is still in its infancy – it went live for the first time in the Pendleton Suite just before Christmas – a number of key benefits of PillTime have already been identified.

These include improvements to dispensing accuracy, fewer medication errors, timely administration to patients, and reduced missed doses.

Nurse Nadine Keats, who works on the Pendleton Suite, said she was finding the pouches to be extremely helpful, saving her personally around 30-40 minutes per round.

With the clear information on the pouches, it has also raised awareness of medication that could potentially have been missed. The tablet information also helps prevent errors but also makes it easy to quickly cross reference against the in-house EPR system.

With this time saving, Nadine has been able to engage more with patients and get to know more about them.

She said: “The PillTime pouches have made for efficient drug rounds, a more calm and relaxed atmosphere on the ward, and also enabled tidier and more manageable trolleys. I would like to continue with the pouches rather than revert back to original pack dispensing.”

Our GDE and Future Digital teams are canvassing the experiences of frontline staff as part of the formal evaluation programme.

These views will equip us with a first-hand insight into how we can maximise the future potential PillTime – not just for ourselves but also for the wider NHS.

PillTime is the latest innovation to go live as part of our programme of more than 50 world-class projects being developed and delivered by our GDE and Future Digital teams."

Our photos show:

Going live …Claire Rigby, Jayne Summerskill and Carol Smith welcome the launch of PillTime to our Heartly Green Intermediate Care Unit.

More quickly and safely … Carol Potts was among the first nurses at Heartly Green to dispense the new PillTime pouches to patients.

PillTime expansion HG group pic

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