By: Kevin Copsey, Business Unit Director at Euclid Medical Products
In 2020, America’s small hospitals have had to adjust their daily operations to address safety precautions, decreased hospital admissions, and more – leaving many on the hunt for new approaches to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
In an era full of new technology, there are ample opportunities for hospital pharmacies to leverage automation that can bring extensive benefits, all while reducing operating costs. Given the current pressure for hospitals to find ways to reduce spending, and the fact that many 100-400 bed hospitals are still manually unit-dosing their medications, automated tabletop packaging machines can transform how many hospitals operate and can be the ticket to significant cost savings.
The first step to identifying cost saving opportunities lies in reviewing a pharmacies current processes and determining where new operations and technology can be applied. For hospitals that are currently manually unit-dose packaging, automation can shrink labor time and packaging costs.
Depending on the size, small hospitals typically purchase ~70% of medications pre-unit dosed, but there are significant cost savings if a pharmacy decides to purchase some medications in bulk and do their own unit dosing. Some of the medications to look for cost savings include Aripiprazole, Paliperidone and Oxycodone. Once a hospital invests in a packaging machine, they can then assess their current medication costs and look for opportunities to unit dose package their own medications as opposed to buying pre-unit dosed packages that tend to add additional costs.
When looking for cost saving opportunities for any business, most of the time a facility will need to front a capital expense to see a return. With automation, although there is a minimal up-front cost to the hardware, the added value is loaded with benefits. Most pharmacies can show a positive ROI in the first year of purchasing, or renting, a new unit dose packaging machine. Many hospitals have the ability to show an ROI in just the first month due to cost savings of $.04-$.05 per package compared to manual unit dose supplies.
Not only do automated packaging machines offer cost savings, they can also cut the labor time required to manually package medications significantly. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, staffing has been a challenge for many pharmacies due to a depleted workforce. By investing in automated machinery like a tabletop unit dose packaging machine, hospitals can operate at the same rate without having to worry about reduced staffing challenges.
Since a tabletop unit dose packaging machine can package at speeds of 60-120 packages per minute, by using this automated machinery, facilities can see a significant decrease by eliminating the manual packaging process. Some hospitals even report being able to cut up to half of a full-time employee (FTE) by investing in a machine. By swapping the manual packaging process for automation, hospitals can eliminate repetitive tasks, gain efficiency and reduce packaging costs.
When dealing with ample amounts of medication, it can be challenging to find a way to store and organize medications that works seamlessly with a facility’s operations. However, many hospitals prefer the flexible packaging material that coincides with a tabletop machine. The flexible packaging material is easier to open, and more medications can be stored in an automated dispensing cabinet (ADC) when compared to the rigid manual blister unit dose packaging. So not only are there opportunities to show an ROI quickly, the packaging material and storing methods are highly preferred.
Future of automation
What impact will pharmaceutical automation have on the future of small hospitals? With advanced technologies and automated equipment growing more efficient, small hospitals can’t afford not to automate. As hospital pharmacies look at potential suppliers to partner with for automation, it is beneficial to look for those that can support all of their packaging needs, including unit-dosing, multi-dosing, packaging for oral and liquid medications and additional machines such as barcode printers, bagging/overwrapping machines and a universal software platform that seamlessly operates all of these machines.
As automated equipment grows more efficient and provides significant benefits, smaller hospitals and their pharmacists are quickly learning that packaging automation is the next step to running a healthcare facility that can seamlessly withstand the unexpected – without breaking the bank.
About the Author
Kevin Copsey serves as the business unit director for Euclid® Medical Products, a leading provider of pharmacy automation equipment with a focus on helping pharmacies, long-term care facilities and third-party re-packagers improve operations and overall patient health. Kevin leads operations, new product development, customer service and business development teams. For more information, visit euclidmedicalproducts.com.