Tan Tock Seng Hospital officially launches automated outpatient pharmacy

Tan Tock Seng Hospital's revamped outpatient pharmacy could be mistaken for a factory production line. -- PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM RAZORTV
Tan Tock Seng Hospital's revamped outpatient pharmacy could be mistaken for a factory production line. -- PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM RAZORTV

SINGAPORE - Tan Tock Seng Hospital's revamped outpatient pharmacy could be mistaken for a factory production line.

After getting electronic orders from doctors' clinics upstairs, machines pick and pack the correct medication for each prescription.

These are put into baskets, which are channelled to three robots via conveyor belts and sorted onto shelves.

It means a shorter wait for patients.

Now, four in 10 of them arrive at the pharmacy to find their medication ready for collection. In the past, they would have to wait around 20 minutes for staff to get their prescriptions ready.

The rework rate - when prescriptions have to be sent back - has also dipped from 30 per cent to around 5 per cent.

"In the face of increasing patient numbers and the wider range of medicines used, the traditional and manual method of preparing medications may no longer be practical," said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at the pharmacy's official opening yesterday.

The hospital's 11 pharmacies see 1,800 patients every day. The hospital could not provide data on how many patients the main, revamped pharmacy accounts for.

Automation has also lowered the error count.

Said senior pharmacist Ms Lim Woan Chyi: "When the patient volume is low, it's okay.

"But when there are many patients, errors can happen."

After Tan Tock Seng's $5.4 million revamp, only 13 pharmacy technicians are needed in the main pharmacy instead of 32 previously.

Extra staff have been moved to clinics, where they go through prescriptions with patients face-to-face.

"They make sure patients have an adequate supply of drugs, or the correct quantities," Ms Lim explained.

"If there are any clarifications, they are closer to the doctors and can get them done faster."