VMI, as a leader in design and build of smart machines in multiple sectors, is an increasingly important player in accurate, industrial-scale medicines dispensing. We are continuously working with pharmacists to improve and accelerate the essential task of putting the right medicines in the right quantities, in the right hands at the right time - and at the lowest achievable cost. That is an important contribution to the healthcare ecosystems developing all around us.
This matters to all of us, because healthcare is probably the only part of the modern economy that personally affects every citizen in every country. It doesn’t matter who we are, what nationality, profession, income and educational level, living alone or as part of a family: we will all hope to receive, at some points in our lives, accurate, timely medical treatment, advice and support. This requirement can only grow as life expectancy rises and the prevalence of long-term conditions grows.
The healthcare sector is changing fast, driven by positive factors (new treatments and technologies) and negative (shortage of resources, not enough available staff). Two changes are especially significant.
The first is the move to treat patients away from hospitals and in their own homes, using smart monitoring systems to manage their conditions and ensure medication adherence. The second is the growing focus on personalized treatments, which includes providing medications packaged for use by individuals. These medication packages need to be dispensed with maximum efficiency, highest accuracy and lowest possible level of wastage. That is exactly where VMI’s mastery of industrialized pouch packaging is proving to be an essential value add to the Pharmacies providing these personalized treatments.
An emerging, collaborative healthcare ecosystem
VMI believes it is possible to deliver better, more effective patient-centered care through systems that enable fast and highly accurate, automated pouch packaging of medicines for individual patients at unprecedented speed and accuracy. This is what our smart systems are already delivering to many thousands of patients.
At VMI, we can see the importance of industrializing and automating as many of the basic care functions as possible because this reduces errors, improves outcomes and saves budget, which can be used both to pay for more care givers and fund research for new treatments.
The healthcare environment is also becoming increasingly collaborative, as groups of stakeholders work closely together to provide the best possible care “packages” to millions of patients. This ecosystem includes innovators in developing new medicines, in smart machines packaging those medicines, and also in remotely monitoring patient condition and automatically responding as needed. Future healthcare will involve communications specialists, IT professionals, pharma innovators, service providers from doctors to social workers, and medical device developers: all working together in this collaborative landscape of care provision. VMI intends to be part of that.
Automated dispensing for better patient care
So far, we have seen that the healthcare market requires innovators to work together. As a smart machine manufacturer, VMI contributes by applying our long-established skills in executing complex but repetitive routines at high speed and with very low error rates. VMI’s vision, which has been enriched and enhanced by our business experience in other industrial sectors, is to play an active part in delivering a solution that addresses the exact needs of each individual customer.
Based on its experience in industrial robotization, VMI has created a market leading automated dispensing solution, consisting of the INDIVION pouch packaging machine, enabled by the PHARYS operating system.
The VMI INDIVION and PHARYS pouch packaging solution, makes it possible to personalize the packaging and distribution of medicines (right patient, drug, dose, route and time) on a huge scale.
Each individual INDIVION machine can manage fast and highly accurate dispensing for up to 25,000 patients, so an installation of three or four machines on one site can normally deliver all the customized medicines required by every patient in a medium sized city. This is a step-change in capacity, reaching a throughput rate that is some five times as high as the previous generation of machines, and is not equaled anywhere on the market. This delivers operational benefits for the Pharmacy, leading to lower costs and lower demand for scarce pharmacy resources, while increasing accuracy and lowering risks.
The INDIVION and PHARYS solution has raised operational efficiency to new levels, while providing precise customization to the needs of the operators concerned. This enables the world’s healthcare systems to move faster towards offering individualized treatments.
The PHARYS operating software not only manages the complexities of individualized dispensing on an industrial scale, but also ensures smooth interfacing with all the other systems, technologies and processes used by the partner ecosystem within a complex healthcare landscape. This is extremely important for all these reasons:
Track and Trace. We must always follow each individual item being dispensed, right through its value chain. PHARYS tracks each capsule and pill, confirming that the right drug, in the right format, strength and quantity has been dispensed. This contributes to ensuring that patients receive and take the correct medicines prescribed for them and enables growing complexity in personalized treatments to be managed successfully.
The track and trace capability in our system minimizes errors in those parts of the process that still require manual intervention, including removal of tablets from original packaging or preparing plates and carrying out corrections at the same time: these activities are fully tracked and traced.
Errors are also greatly reduced as a result of INDIVION’s built-in operational characteristics. These include guiding operators via a consistent user interface, backed by scanning verification and interfacing with other databases to detect counterfeits. Aligning with the particular need of the customer, the PHARYS system enables both centralized and individually directed reporting. Customers can therefore specify reporting on the end-to-end process as a whole or on any individual process stage.
Fast intervention. All dispensing organizations require systems for continuous monitoring, with rapid error identification and correction. PHARYS enables dispensing organizations to define the error identification methods that work best for them, ensuring that any issues or causes for concern are identified at once. The in-built flexibility of the INDIVION system provides customers with a wide range of options, from an associated correction station close to the main INDIVION system, right through to sending images of correction to a remote pharmacist for inspection and approval.
Enabling operational agility. In developing the PHARYS operating system for INDIVION, VMI has used the micro-services approach to maximize flexibility and minimize the potential for vendor lock-in. The PHARYS operating system can specify which component should perform particular actions and guide the operator to execute these actions correctly. This ensures, for example, that only pharmacists and other high-level supervisors can manually correct a pouch or by-pass a barcode verification, while guaranteeing compliance with all regulations and internal requirements.
PHARYS also makes sure that components work together to meet customer needs. These can range from:
The goal is to enable maximum flexibility based on customer preference and automation capabilities. All these different options are made possible by the PHARYS architecture, which allows flexibility in sequence, with seamless integration of workflow process stages, together with different levels of automation and robotization.
Preventing vendor lock-in. VMI understands how important it is for customers to have the freedom to choose best of breed options for every part of their pharmacy environment, so VMI’s architecture is built for flexibility right through the complete lifetime of the solution. This means customers can select different vendors for different requirements: monitoring filled pouches and correcting errors, for example, or interfaces to core business systems for purchasing, inventory, ordering or simply to interface with handling systems, such as conveyors and storage/retrieval solutions.
The PHARYS operating system facilitates easy communication and interaction between different applications and components from a growing range of different vendors. This is achieved by using a message broker system, which can communicate individually with each different component, identifying and routing communications between appropriate components, queuing messages as needed and ensuring delivery.
Our vision for the future
The modern, emerging healthcare economy is inhabited by many different players, ranging from insurers to charities to advanced manufacturers to pharmaceutical companies to cloud-enabled analytics and monitoring designers. This is of necessity a collaborative environment, and it is in everyone’s interests for it to remain like that.
At the heart of modern healthcare is data, which is analyzed to deliver detailed insights. Some information is highly personal (patient data, that must be protected and kept confidential), while some is proprietary (the Intellectual Property all innovators and system owners must safeguard to protect their core business interests).
And yet: truly integrated systems, of the kind envisaged here, require a near-open flow of data, moving seamlessly and uninterrupted from one proprietary system to another, enabling them all to work as a single, highly efficient and integrated unity, focused on delivering the best outcomes for patients. The design approach taken by VMI in the PHARYS suite enables data to be securely presented to other partners in a form that is ready for use by them, both to “drive” their own processes and technologies, while being detailed enough to facilitate development of innovative new solutions.
VMI is dedicated to playing its part as an active, reliable and trustworthy partner to all other stakeholders in the markets where it operates. Our combined solution, bringing together INDIVION with PHARYS, provides unrivalled speed, accuracy and auditability in medicines packaging and dispensing. Thanks to its modern and flexible design, our solution can be integrated with the very different technologies and services provided by other vendors. Most important, it can be embedded within comprehensive care packages delivered by healthcare providers of different kinds in different locations.
This helps to deliver next generation pharmacy automation, reducing repetitive tasks for the operator/pharmacy assistants to the greatest degree currently possible. This is supported beyond the INDIVION solution through the PHARYS operating system, via its ability to provide data-exchange and seamless communication with other systems.
Taken together, INDIVION and PHARYS deliver high level automation and robotization, increasing efficiencies and minimizing opportunities for errors throughout the complete pharmacy workflow. VMI, as a leading player in smart machine design, manufacture and maintenance, is now bringing the unique skills and experience gained in multiple industries to healthcare, and that is opening new opportunities for every other stakeholder in the field.