Two schemes set up by the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) to improve its distribution of medication have been paying dividends, by freeing up time for both patients and staff.
In February last year, the hospital started making non-standard but commonly requested drugs available at the nine SingHealth polyclinics.
It means that discharged SGH patients need only visit their local polyclinic rather than return to the hospital to pick up their medicine.
Previously, many would have had to visit both places to get their drugs - a complication that put some off completing their course of medication.
Dr Derek Tse, assistant director of clinical services at SingHealth Polyclinics, said: "What we observed is that the patient may not pick up (the drug), and may opt not to take it any more."
Non-standard medication now stocked by SingHealth polyclinics includes glucosamine for joint issues and ketoprofen plasters for pain relief. In March, the polyclinics received 15,200 prescriptions for non-standard medication on its list, up from around 7,800 a year earlier.
Meanwhile, since April last year, SGH's main pharmacy has stocked up on around 25 varieties of specialised drugs, which were previously stored in different buildings on the hospital grounds.
Earlier, this meant staff would sometimes spend up to an hour waiting at the various specialist centres - such as the National Heart Centre Singapore - to collect medication for hospitalised patients.
Ms Lee Chen Ee, director of the office for service transformation at SGH, said that if a specialist centre's pharmacy was closed - such as at a weekend - patients "may have missed a dose or used alternatives until their own supply was available".
Since stocking up on the most frequently requested medication, however, the number of requests made to specialist centres has dropped by nearly two-thirds.
Ms Lee added that the changes have freed up staff for more important work. "It's a waste to take these well-trained staff away from directly serving patients. Healthcare manpower is very scarce and everyone's skills should be fully utilised."
It's certainly an inconvenience, especially after patients have been waiting in the polyclinics for a long time. What we observed is that the patient may not pick (the drug) up, and may opt not to take it any more.
- Dr Derek Tse, assistant director for clinical services at SingHealth polyclinics, on patients previously having to go to the hospital to pick up drugs that the polyclinic does not stock
This article was first published on May 13, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.