Background Sunderland Royal Hospital has approximately 1,000 beds, and has operated an integrated electronic prescribing system (EP) since 2001. In September 2009, a robotic dispenser directly linked to EP was installed in the main pharmacy.
Purpose Using electronic prescribing directly linked to dispensing robots delivers a series of benefits in terms of error reduction and efficiency (1)(2). Our aim was to investigate the impact of this on professional practice.
Materials and methods A qualitative survey was undertaken of 8 pharmacists to pilot a semistructured questionnaire. Standard thematic analysis methods (3) were used. Any issue raised by pharmacists was noted and assigned to a theme. This was independently assessed for accuracy (GK). Staff interviewed varied from newly-qualified pharmacists to experienced managers.
Results The results of the survey shown were collated and analysed. The main points are listed in order of positive benefits scored:
▶ Feeling more empowered on wards 87%
▶ Availability of relevant patient information 87%
▶ Enhanced ward-based relationships 75%
▶ Efficiency of EP + Robots combined 75%
▶ Improvement in enforcing hospital medicines policies 37%
There was a series of lesser-scoring themes not included for space reasons.
Conclusions The direct linking of a robotic dispensing machine to electronic prescribing, besides increasing efficiency, seems to offer enhancement of professional aspects of clinical pharmacy. Removing mundane aspects of drug supply and policy enforcement allows greater focus on patient-centred activities and enhances professional relationships at ward level. This might in part relate to removal of ‘policing’ functions of hospital policies because these are done electronically instead of relying on the ward pharmacist. Further detailed work is required to explore the issues raised by this study, and its impact on the professional model. GK = Dr Gulia Karimova, Sunderland Royal Hospital, Sunderland England SR4 7TP.
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