From the above picture, it’s easy to imagine how a healthcare provider could select the wrong medication. In our paper, my co-author Russ Meller and I looked at how to locate medications in automated dispensing cabinets to minimize human selection errors. We formulated the problem as the well-studied quadratic assignment problem and developed heuristic methods to solve industry-sized problems.
As a graduate student, I was fortunate to work with the Center for Innovation in Healthcare Logistics (CIHL), which is an “industry-university partnership that leads a nationwide effort to identify and foster system-wide adoption of ground-breaking healthcare supply chain and logistics innovations.” The Center has recently been featured in AlliedHealthWorld.com’s article, “10 Schools Driving Healthcare Innovation.” I was involved with projects that dealt with global identification standards for medical products, understanding the logistics and safety implications of unit-dose medications, as well as conducting a GAP analysis between healthcare and retail supply chains.
A best practice, as well as one of the keys to automating many of the processes in a hospital pharmacy (e.g., see this great Planet Money Story on how robots can transform a California hospital), is to handle medications in unit dose packages. Our research team evaluated different strategies for obtaining medications in unit dose packages, see below for some of our publications:
Meller, Russell D., Pazour, Jennifer A., Thomas, Lisa M., Mason, Scott J., Root, Sarah E., and Churchill, William W., “Third-party repackaging in hospital pharmacy unit dose acquisition.” American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy 67.13 (2010): 1108-1114. [click for link]
Pazour, Jennifer A., Root, Sarah E., Meller, Russell D., Thomas, Lisa M., and Mason, Scott J., “Selecting and allocating repackaging technology for unit-dose medications in hospital pharmacies.” International Journal of Innovation and Technology Management 10.03 (2013).[link to article]
Mason, Scott J., Meller, Russell D, Thomas, Lisa M., Pazour, Jennifer A., and Root, Sarah E., “Survey of hospital pharmacy directors: assessment of the current state of unit-dose acquisition.” Journal of Pharmacy Technology 26.1 (2010): 3-8. [link to article]