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University of Illinois Chicago College of Pharmacy
Continuing Innovation Through The Pandemic

by Maxwell Stone, P3, Student Chapter Co-President Rockford Campus, University of Illinois Chicago College of Pharmacy

During the past year, we have all seen significant changes to the way we practice pharmacy. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused changes to our protocols, relocations to remote and online environments, new medication utilization, new drug shortages, and increased demand for PPE. Pharmacy practice was rapidly evolving before the virus became omnipresent. The 2020 ASHP Pharmacy Forecast had a lot to say about how hospital and health system pharmacy may change.1

Innovation is often synonymous with new technology. This year’s Pharmacy Forecast discussed advanced computing technologies and the application of genomics. Artificial intelligence and advanced computing technologies have the potential to aid or even replace pharmacists in some patient-care-related tasks as they progress. There are still many barriers to implementing Artificial Intelligence, such as standardizations in data collection or data sources within EHRs. Genomics has been a hot topic in pharmacy for some time now. This year's edition of the Pharmacy Forecast discussed the ethical use of genomic testing, strategic recommendations for practice leaders, and genetic modification therapies. Gene therapy is quickly growing and covers many different clinical applications. 

I had the opportunity to talk with the pharmacy team at SwedishAmerican Hospital, a UW Health division, about how their hospital is taking innovations one step further. The pharmacy has implemented BoxPicker® (an automated pharmacy storage and retrieval system) and Kit Check® (an automated medication tray and cart management system). I spoke with Pharmacy Director, Tom Carey and PGY1 Pharmacy Resident, Dayna Redini, UIC COP Class of 2020, about pharmacy innovations with Kit Check®.

Kit Check® is a tool designed to improve efficiency, patient safety, and medication visibility for medication trays and carts. Kit Check® uses RFID tags to scan and track medications quickly. Once medications are appropriately tagged, the Kit Check® scanning station can scan a tray to quickly create an inventory report indicating which medications are missing, expiring, or placed incorrectly. Kit Check® is designed to make the entire scanning, re-stocking, and verification process faster and more streamlined. 

SwedishAmerican is utilizing Kit Check® as an inventory monitoring system and reducing workload in re-stocking trays. The management system has been incorporated in the re-stocking of anesthesia trays, GI trays, L&D trays, and crash carts. Dayna tells me, “The goal is to modernize our inventory tracking, decrease the workload of technicians and pharmacists, and reduce medication errors.” It is too early to see any data in cost-saving, but the pharmacy is already using utilization data to reduce the par of medications that are not routinely used. This helps save re-stocking time and reduces inventory.

The technology takes some time to install and set up with the pharmacy director, inpatient manager, and IT manager's cooperation. There is also the substantial groundwork involved in preparing all the medications, labeling thousands of medications, and entering them into the system. Complete implementation of the system, including training and adjustments to procedures, took a few months. 

Training is an essential component of any new process. SwedishAmerican ensured that each employee had personal, hands-on training to understand the new processes better. The pharmacy team is trained so that the new system can be utilized appropriately and keep the patients safe. Throughout the training, some complications were identified, and adjustments were made to procedures. The most considerable complications were phasing out the old system and clearing up the confusion.

Several UIC students had the opportunity to work hands-on with Kit Check®. The training is fast and efficient, taking only about 15 minutes. Checking a tray for a crash cart takes only about 2 minutes. SwedishAmerican is always looking to innovate by incorporating technology to help serve our patients. We are all excited to see what innovations in healthcare are coming next. 

  1. Vermeulen LC, Swarthout MD, Alexander GC, et al. ASHP Foundation Pharmacy Forecast 2020: Strategic Planning Advice for Pharmacy Departments in Hospitals and Health Systems. Am J Health-System Pharm. 2020:77(2);84–112. 



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