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Smart vending machine revolutionizes pharmacy service at Singapore hospital

Changi General Hospital (CGH)'s Pharmacy Department is at the forefront of redefining the role of pharmacists in Singapore. Gone are the days when pharmacists were solely responsible for dispensing medicines accurately. Today, they are actively engaged in collaborative prescribing, optimizing medication safety, and empowering patients through education. CGH's Pharmacy Department is not only providing trusted care to patients and the community but also driving healthcare innovation for the future. One of their notable achievements is the development of technological solutions -- use of automation in medicine storage and packing, medicine delivery and the purchase of Pharmacy Only Medicines through tele-pharmacist consultations.

According to Dr. Jonathan Seah, Head of Pharmacy at CGH, the hospital's dedication to innovation is deeply embedded in its Pharmacy team. Their goal is to explore and implement smart solutions that enhance the patient experience, improve health and medication literacy, and optimize health outcomes.

Teleconsultation with pharmacist in progress (source: CGH)

Pharmacy Only Medicines on the go

A recent groundbreaking innovation led by CGH pharmacists is the Pharmacy Smart Interface System (PharmaSIS). This system introduces the first smart vending machine in Singapore that provides access to Pharmacy Only Medicines through on-site tele-consultations with a pharmacist. The aim is to offer customers convenient and timely access to medicines while empowering them to manage minor ailments independently. By transforming the way Pharmacy Only Medicines are dispensed, PharmaSIS revolutionizes the landscape of pharmacy services in Singapore.

In compliance with Singapore's regulatory requirements, the purchase of Pharmacy Only Medicines at PharmaSIS is supervised by a CGH pharmacist available between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm on weekdays. Through tele-consultations, the pharmacist assesses patients, provides guidance on selecting medicine for minor ailments, and recommends appropriate advice and medications. CGH is also exploring the possibility of extending the tele-consultation hours. Additionally, PharmaSIS offers a range of over-the-counter medicines available round-the-clock. The selection includes treatments for common minor ailments such as cough, colds, diarrhea, fever, and skin infections, among others. Other products, including hearing aid batteries and audiology products, are also available.

During the development process, CGH pharmacists meticulously designed and tested each aspect of PharmaSIS, prioritizing medication safety and consumer confidentiality. The collaboration involved CGH's Office of Innovation, and approval from the Health Sciences Authority was obtained in April 2023. To ensure medication safety and quality, PharmaSIS incorporates smart safety measures such as a controlled environment with automated temperature and humidity control. A real-time video feed allows pharmacists to monitor the dispensing process and ensure accurate dispensing. The interactive screen provides key information on over-the-counter medicines to aid consumers in their selection.

The innovative PharmaSIS vending machine has attracted interest from public agencies and grassroots leaders. CGH plans to deploy PharmaSIS machines at community centers in Simei and at CGH Community Nursing Posts, supporting community nurses in their initiatives, including smoking cessation programs.

Smart medicine storage and retrieval

CGH's Pharmacy team has also harnessed automation to optimize processes at its outpatient pharmacy. The integration of the Outpatient Pharmacy Automation System (OPAS) in 2018 resulted in improved efficiency and accuracy in packing medications, saving significant man-hours and enabling CGH to handle an increasing patient load. Building on this success, CGH plans to introduce an additional automation unit at the hospital by April 2024 to further enhance safety and efficiency.

Medication delivery to your doorstep PharmaSIS vending machine (source: CGH)

Another notable innovation from CGH's Pharmacy team is the Medication Delivery Service (MDS), which saw significant expansion during the pandemic. The team worked diligently to improve the process, ensuring reliability and efficiency for both patients and staff. They developed a registration and database system utilizing Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which not only achieved manpower savings but also enhanced data entry accuracy.

Dr. Jonathan Seah emphasized that with the rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, CGH Pharmacy remains committed to providing trusted care and embracing future innovations. Artificial Intelligence, telehealth, and personalized medicine are among the trends that will shape the future of healthcare, and CGH Pharmacy is determined to remain at the forefront of these advancements.


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