Adoption of automated pharmacy solutions helps Fakeeh University Hospital rise to challenges of Covid-19

Dubai-based hospital reaps rewards of automated technology during pandemic and beyond

By Salim Hammoud, Commercial Director of Middle East Sales at Omnicell International

The last two years have placed significant pressure on the healthcare sector globally, as medical professionals have been challenged with overcoming a hitherto unknown virus. Every aspect of the healthcare system has been impacted, including pharmacy teams. For Fakeeh University Hospital (FUH) in Dubai, dealing with the pandemic offered an opportunity to overhaul its approach to pharmacy services.

From the outset of the pandemic, a key issue for the hospital was how to manage the increased demand from the isolation units. This included providing unprecedented levels of pharmacy care, such as managing medication inventory in a rapidly changing environment. They were also faced with limited pharmacy personnel as a by-product of Covid-19, such as sickness and self-isolation, which further impacted the pressures of the work environment.

At the heart of any pharmacist’s remit – irrespective of the pandemic – is to ensure the right patients receive the right dose of the right medication at the right time and to ensure a high level of traceability across the hospital. An efficient pharmacy system will enable more time to be spent on patients and improve the quality of care. 

It was with this in mind that the team at FUH introduced a range of Omnicell’s automated pharmacy solutions. According to Dr. Mohamed Magoury, Director of Pharmacy Services at Fakeeh University Hospital, this has had a transformational impact during the pressures of the past 24 months.

He says: “The global pandemic has required the rapid adoption of critical change throughout the hospital. However, for our pharmacy team in particular, automated technology has had a significant impact in enabling the team to respond in the most efficient and effective way for our patients, while also helping to support the safety and wellbeing of our staff. With reduced stress levels and more confidence to overcome unexpected and high-pressured daily challenges as a direct result of the technology, the team was able to maintain the highest quality of patient care through the most testing of times.”

FUH invested in a range of solutions from Omnicell, including: Central Pharmacy Manager software; automated carousel and shelving systems; automated medication dispensing cabinets; an Anesthesia WorkStation; a NarcVault; and an outpatient medication box dispensing robot. These technologies combined to support patient care during Covid-19. 

The Central Pharmacy Manager software used by FUH pharmacy staff and colleagues is central to the hospital’s pharmacy system. It has helped the team to manage inventory management issues in the hospital’s central pharmacy, enabling the streamlining of medication processes and providing visibility from when medication is received from the wholesaler to when it’s dispensed to the patient. The software manages the inventory of all items located in central pharmacy, as well as remote areas such as pharmacy shelves and carousels, pharmacy refrigerators, and items under the control of Omnicell’s automated dispensing cabinets in nursing units. The system provides visibility of inventory levels and forecasts usage trends for medication, improving stock management. As a result, the system was used to effectively manage the demand for over 30 medications used to treat Covid-19 patients, supporting medication availability. This data helped the pharmacy team to make faster, more informed decisions including:  

Allocating critical medication in the right locations based on where it is needed the most.

Optimising and increasing par levels in critical/isolation areas to reduce stocking frequencies.

Assisting in forward planning and ordering of Covid-19 medications to prevent potential shortage situations.

FUH’s automated dispensing cabinets (ADCs) provided the pharmacy team with improved reporting and greater medication storage capacity than ever before: more than 70% of medication, narcotics and controlled medications could be stored. An impressive 18,000 items were directly dispensed from ADCs in the hospital’s ICU in the first month following the admission of the first Covid-19 patient. Dr. Magoury adds: “The impact of the ADCs was that more medication was readily available for patients, with no delays and stockouts, along with fewer nursing and pharmacy disruptions.” 

Importantly, ADCs also reduced the risk of cross-contamination and protected the health of nursing staff. Fewer top-up visits were required in critical care as the right level of stock was always available in the cabinets due to the data insights. 

When assessing its impact over the last 24 months, the hospital is very clear on the overall key benefits and outcomes ADCs have provided: higher quality patient care; improved visibility and actionable insights to high demand medications; the ability to reassign resources to higher value-added roles; and increased efficiency during challenging times.

While the pandemic has brought the positive effects of automated technology solutions to the forefront, Salim Hammoud, Commercial Director of Middle East Sales for Omnicell International believes that automated solutions offer benefits far beyond the pandemic and will be key to solving the pharmacy sector’s pain points across the region. “Automation provides massive payback to hospitals, from patient-specific cartfills​ and manual inventory keeping in central pharmacy​, to the manual picking of medication and printing of medication orders. These time-consuming tasks can be eliminated with the right pharmacy automation, freeing-up pharmacists’ valuable time to spend with patients. 

“Research shows that in the Gulf region, around 25% of the total cost of medication goes to waste. Omnicell’s hardware, software and service solutions combine to give customers the data they need to make informed decisions and help improve quality, efficiency, safety while reducing costs across the entire healthcare setting. With the rise in chronic diseases, there is an urgent need to accommodate for an increase in demand for pharmacy services generally. Therefore, investment in the right technology represents a huge opportunity for pharmacists as they pursue the goal of zero-error medication management.” 

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