NHG's medicine pre-packaging system wins award

SINGAPORE - Patients with chronic illnesses and a lot of medicine need not worry about mixing up the drugs, with a new packing system.

This innovation, in which drugs are packed in sachets by what needs to be taken per dose instead of by type, is the brainchild of National Healthcare Group (NHG) Pharmacy and the Health Ministry's Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS).

Rather than fumble for pills from a multitude of bags thrice a day, a patient could simply open one of three sachets given for each day, with each sachet containing all the drugs for that dose.

This netted NHG Pharmacy and IHiS the regional Congress of International Organisations (CIO) Award on Thursday. Every year, the regional CIO Award recognises five firms in Asia that have made IT innovations.

The system, termed Multi-dose Medication Management (MMM), consists of a doctor-managed database of a patient's prescriptions which feeds the information to a refrigerator-sized robot that then selects the appropriate drugs and packages them - 14 times faster than human pharmacists can.

MMM promises greater convenience to patients with long-term illnesses and a lower risk of patients taking their medicine in the wrong doses.

Madam Low Mui Lang, executive director of The Salvation Army Peacehaven Nursing Home, which is testing the system, said: "Some residents may require up to 15 different pills a day, which can be a challenge to keep track of accurately. This system helps simplify things by providing all the necessary medicines for each dose in one convenient sachet."

Pharmacists benefit too, as a large part of their workflow becomes automated. Ms Chan Soo Chung, NHG Pharmacy's executive director, said: "We can now pack the medication for 200 beds using 1.5 man-days instead of 20 man-days." Ms Tan Guat Peng, director of Nursing at United Medicare Centre Toa Payoh, said the new system would free staff from tedious medicine management, and allow them to spend more time with residents.

MMM is currently in testing at 16 nursing homes, four long-stay wards in the Institute of Mental Health, and Singhealth polyclinics at Hougang, Jurong and Toa Payoh. Roll-outs on a larger scale are being planned.

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