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Singapore, 13 June 2023 – The conventional role of pharmacists has evolved and expanded significantly over the years, from focusing primarily on the accurate dispensing of medicine, to collaborative prescribing, optimising medication safety and empowering patients through education. In providing trusted care to patients and the community, and innovating healthcare for tomorrow, Changi General Hospital (CGH)’s Pharmacy Department plays an active role in developing technological solutions, including the use of automation in medicine storage and packing, medicine delivery and the purchase of Pharmacy Only Medicines through tele-pharmacist consultations.
Dr Jonathan Seah, Head, Pharmacy, CGH, said, “CGH’s dedication toward innovation is deeply ingrained in our Pharmacy team. We continually explore and implement smart solutions to connect with patients, enhance their care experience and improve health and medication literacy, with the aim of optimising patients’ health outcomes and helping them stay healthy.
Pharmacy Only Medicines on the go
The latest in a series of CGH pharmacist-led innovations is the
System (PharmaSIS) – the first smart vending machine in Singapore to offer access to Pharmacy Only Medicines by providing on-site tele-consultations with a pharmacist. Conceptualised with the aim of providing customers timely and convenient access to medicines, and empowering the community to take charge of their own health through the management of minor ailments, this innovation transforms the way Pharmacy Only Medicines can be dispensed in Singapore.
Under regulatory requirements in Singapore, Pharmacy Only Medicines can only be purchased under the supervision of a pharmacist at or from a licensed retail pharmacy. For the purchase of Pharmacy Only Medicines at PharmaSIS, a CGH pharmacist will be available between 9.00am to 6.00pm on weekdays to offer guidance to the consumer on the selection of medicine for minor ailments through the tele-consultation. The pharmacist will assess the patient before recommending the appropriate advice and medications. CGH is also exploring the possibility of extending the tele-consultation hours. PharmaSIS also offers a range of over-the-counter medicines that are available round-the-clock.
The range of medicines kept in PharmaSIS are generally curated towards the treatment of common minor ailments such as cough, colds, diarrhoea, constipation, fever, dry skin, dry eyes, minor skin fungal infections, skin itch, insect bites and gastric reflux. In addition, products such as hearing aid batteries and other audiology products are also available in PharmaSIS.
As part of the development process, CGH pharmacists designed and tested each process rigorously within PharmaSIS, with medication safety and consumer confidentiality as key considerations
(Refer to Annex for the process). This was a team effort in close collaboration with CGH's Office of Innovation. PharmaSIS received approval from the Health Sciences Authority to dispense Pharmacy Only Medicines in April 2023.
To ensure medication safety and quality, PharmaSIS is installed with smart safety measures. For example, medicines are stored in a controlled environment as PharmaSIS has incorporated an automated temperature and humidity control system. A real-time video feed allows the pharmacist to monitor the process to ensure that the correct type and quantity of medicines is dispensed and collected. Key information on over-the counter medicines is also displayed on the interactive screen to aid consumers in the selection of medicines.
The innovative smart vending machine has since garnered interest from public agencies and grassroot leaders. CGH is looking to deploy PharmaSIS machines at community centres in Simei and at the CGH Community Nursing Posts to support our community nurses in their work such as smoking cessation initiatives.
Watch PharmaSIS video here:
Smart medicine storage and retrieval
Recognising the increasing healthcare needs of an ageing population, the CGH Pharmacy team has utilised automation to optimise the hospital's processes at its outpatient pharmacy.
Developed in 2018, the integration of the Outpatient Pharmacy Automation System (OPAS) at the CGH Medical Centre Pharmacy brought about positive outcomes for both patients and pharmacy staff. The automation ensured accuracy in items packed via the OPAS unit, and reduced overall packing time by almost half, resulting in significant man-hours saved and allowing CGH to serve an increasing patient load.
The success of OPAS at CGH has spurred the Pharmacy team to introduce an additional automation unit at the hospital by April 2024 to further enhance safety and efficiency.
Medication delivery to your doorstep
An innovative solution that expanded significantly during the pandemic, the Medication Delivery Service (MDS) has revolutionised the medication collection process across healthcare institutions in Singapore. To cater to the increased demand, the CGH Pharmacy team worked to improve the process to enhance the reliability and efficiency of the system for patients and staff. This includes the development of a registration and database system that utilises Robotic Process Automation (RPA), enabling the Pharmacy team to achieve manpower savings and accuracy in data entry.
"With the healthcare landscape evolving quickly and constantly, developments such as Artificial Intelligence, telehealth, and personalised medicine are some of the trends that will transform the way we work. CGH Pharmacy will continue to provide trusted care for better health as we innovate for the future," Dr Seah added.
ANNEX: How to purchase Pharmacy Only Medicines at PharmaSIS
Consumers can search for Pharmacy Only Medicines by keying in their symptoms or browsing for medicines in the product pages. Details of the product will be displayed after the consumer selects an item on the screen.
Consumers are to enter their name and mobile number for the tele-consultation with a CGH pharmacist.
Consumers are required to place their identity card at the reader, while a CGH pharmacist on the call will verify and match the consumer's identity and face through a high-definition camera at the vending machine.
The CGH pharmacist will proceed with the consultation and recommendation only upon successful verification of the consumer's identity.
Consumers can make payment using cashless modes and collect the medicine at the vending machine.
A therapeutic product that can be freely obtained from any retailer. It can be used safely by the public without medical supervision and intended for short term self-treatment only.
A therapeutic product that can be obtained from a pharmacist at a retail pharmacy. The condition is self-limiting and can be assessed and treated by pharmacists.
A therapeutic product that can only be obtained from a doctor or a dentist, or from a pharmacist with a prescription from a doctor or a dentist. The condition to be treated needs to be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. It can also have serious side effects which require a doctor's monitoring or follow up.
CGH Pharmacy team with PharmaSIS.
Teleconsultation with pharmacist in progress.
PharmaSIS vending machine.
Outpatient Pharmacy Automation System (OPAS).