Robots dispense drugs accurately, smart ID cards minimise chance of human error
Cutting-edge technology is playing a vital role to improve the quality of healthcare services. Many Thai hospitals use advanced technology to provide their patients the best service.
Patients at Bangkok’s Ramkhamhaeng Hospital are met by high technology from the moment they first step inside, when they receive a “guide card” that contains their data along with a barcode.
Patients need to use the card at every step of their treatment. Staff and doctors use barcode scanners on the card throughout the procedure to ensure the right identification, the right records, the right file, and the right medication go to the right patient.
When a doctor first sees a patient, he or she scans the ID card to make sure it matches the patient. After the diagnosis, the doctor types the symptoms and prescription into the computer system. The prescription is sent to the medicine-dispensing department.
For inpatients, staff feed the prescription into a medicine-dispenser robot, which arranges and dispenses the appropriate doses. Each dose is scanned by barcode before being administered to the patient.
Such advanced technologies are aimed at improving the quality of patients’ treatment, reducing errors and time and increasing accuracy, Dr Siripong Luengvarinkul, deputy managing director of Ramkhamhaeng Hospital, told The Nation in a group interview.
“The hospital is concerned about the safety of patients and the accuracy of the healing process. Our purpose is to ensure patients get the most value of healthcare services. These technologies are the tools to achieve that goal,” he said.
For example, the guide card, which uses optical character recognition (OCR) similarly to commercial barcodes, provides a convenient process and accuracy for treatment of patients, Siripong said.
It can also help prevent a wrong vaccine being given to children, as staff scan the guide card to make sure vaccine and patient match, he said.
Six months ago, the hospital started to use an electronic medical record (EMR) system to collect patient’s data in digital form. Currently, the hospital has about 2,000 patients. EMR can reduce errors in registering the patient’s record as well as saving time, Siripong said.
Commenting on the robotic medicine dispenser for inpatients, he noted that this technology reduced the risk that pharmacists cannot read a doctor’s handwriting, which could result in incorrect medication or dosage. He said some studies abroad had found a rate of such errors by hospital pharmacies of 5-7 per cent. No such studies have been conducted in Thailand.
So far, Ramkhamhaeng and its sister hospitals have seen no drug-dispensing errors since the robotic system was implemented about five years ago. However, nurses in the wards still do cross-checks before giving medicine to patients.
Ramkhamhaeng Hospital now has three robots and it is considering whether to use them for outpatient medication as well.
Another technology used in the hospital is a picture archiving and communication system (PACS). Electronic images and reports – X-rays, for example – are transmitted digitally via PACS. This speeds up the treatment process as doctors can read patients’ files and monitor their symptoms online anywhere at any time, Siripong said.
All the technologies now used at Ramkhamhaeng are also employed by its sister hospitals, Synphaet in Bangkok’s Khan Na Yow district, Chiang Mai Ram, Lanna Hospital also in Chiang Mai, and Sukumvit Hospital.
Siripong said such high technology was expensive but the investment was worth it for the patients.
“It does not make their costs higher. We don’t have to charge extra fees to the patients because we may get a return [on investment] from an increasing number of patients. Some technologies such as electrocardiogram systems that check for heart problems by monitoring the electrical activity of your heart, in fact, help reduce costs,” he said.
However, Siripong acknowledged that some older doctors were not familiar with the new technology, especially typing instead of writing.
All the above-mentioned technologies used at Ramkhamhaeng and its affiliated hospitals need a data backup centre and servers, which are provided by Dell Corporation (Thailand).
The two companies have been strategic partners for 10 years. Dell provides a data centre, servers, storage, and data discovery systems for the hospital group.
Dell Thailand managing director Anothai Wettayakorn said his company was proud to be a partner of the hospital and see progress it was making with the new technology.
“We are aware that healthcare technology needs a stable system, to speed up the treatment process and help doctors make the best and quick decisions with accurate information, so we designed a sustainable system for our partner,” Anothai said.
All technologies are designed to be easy to use so doctors and staff can best serve their patients, he said.
“These days, you cannot divide technology from healthcare. In the future, they will be more convergent,” he said.
In the future, the system will be more convenient for patients. For example, patients of Ramkhamhaeng Hospital could use their guide card at Chiang Mai Ram, as the information will be connected and shared among all the group’s hospitals, Anothai said.
At a glance
EMR: An electronic medical record is a representation of all of a patient’s data that would originally be found in a paper-based record. It contains all data including pathology, radiology and clinical information that has been combined and structured in a digital form.
The system is designed to capture and re-present data that accurately perceives the state of the patient at all times. It allows for an entire patient history to be viewed without the need to track down previous medical records and assists in ensuring the data are accurate, appropriate and legible.
PACS: A picture archiving and communication system is a medical imaging technology that provides economical storage of, and convenient access to, images from multiple modalities. Electronic images and reports are transmitted digitally via PACS; this eliminates the need to file, retrieve, or transport film jackets manually.
OCR: Optical character recognition is the mechanical or electronic conversion of scanned images of handwritten, typewritten or printed text into machine-encoded text. It is widely used as a form of data entry from some sort of original paper data source, whether documents, sales receipts, mail, or any number of printed records.