July 13, 2020

From Scotland: By Lorna Norris, Omnicell Sales Manager for Scotland and North East England

Omnicell makes significant contribution to eye-opening new Scottish Government report on the supply and demand for medicines.

"On June 30th, 2020, the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee published an important report entitled The Supply and Demand for Medicines. At the outset, the committee anticipated that this report would be an investigation into any issues surrounding the efficiency of the system and the levels of waste generated. However, as the inquiry progressed, a fundamental issue was exposed, shockingly, the system of supply and demand for medicines in Scotland “does not have a focus on patients”.

A confluence of factors is responsible for this, but the most concerning of all highlighted by the report is “an almost complete absence of unusable data”. This includes a lack of data collection and analysis on outcomes achieved via the prescriptions of medicines, as well as the impact on individual patients taking medicines. In terms of patients in primary care, they were found not to be receiving follow up care to ensure that medicines prescribed to them were effective or even to ensure that they had been used. As a consequence, there is little understanding of people’s experience of taking medicines, which, as the report highlighted, “impacts the system at every stage”.

The report also outlines that the Committee was disappointed not to find comprehensive IT systems implemented across the NHS in Scotland, as this technology can maximise the use of patient data and therefore insight, to provide a better service. In conclusion, the report strongly recommends that the Scottish Government consider the IT and data requirements of the NHS at a national level. This necessitates a strategic approach to implement systems with long term utility as a matter of urgency. As has been found in previous reports, it was asserted that “savings, efficiencies and better patient care are possible with modern IT capable of data gathering, analysing and sharing”.

This conclusion is very much in line with Omnicell’s ethos of improving patient safety and efficiencies across a range of care settings through the development and implementation of innovative technology. Indeed, as part of its work to drive patient safety standards across the healthcare landscape, Omnicell submitted detailed evidence to this inquiry at the end of last year.  As a team we worked tirelessly to bring together our compelling argument as to why innovative technology is the right way forward in terms of reducing error, as well as improving efficiency and clinical outcomes in the medication dispensation process. This all came in the wake of wider awareness raising of key patient safety issues amongst relevant MPs and committee clerks.

In the final report, two pages are dedicated to the evidence brought forward by Omnicell, indicating the high level of attention it was given by the Health and Sport Committee. Omnicell argued that –

“Medication errors can result in adverse drug reactions, drug-to-drug interactions, a lack of efficacy, sub-optimal patient adherence, impaired quality of life and a poor patient experience”.

Omnicell is already an established global leader in supply and medication management solutions and adherence tools for healthcare systems and pharmacies. Underpinning all Omnicell technologies in the fields of advanced automation, pharmacy automation and supplies automation are a set of core aims: reducing medication dispensation errors, improving patient safety, driving supplies efficiency, and enabling medical professionals to spend more time on face-to-face patient care.

In its submitted evidence, Omnicell set forth the benefits of robotic dispensing –

“Robots have the potential to manage stock rotation – reducing medicines wastage, handle high volumes of dispensing in community pharmacies, or dispensing ‘hubs’, and release pharmacists to develop and deliver patient-centred services”.

One poignant success story referenced in the report is the case of Golden Jubilee National Hospital, who implemented Omnicell ward based automated medication dispensing cabinets. Since installation pharmacy and nursing staff have seen their time freed up to focus on their vital responsibilities such as immediate and more personal patient care.

The report acknowledged the huge scale needed to produce such efficient results from robotic and automated dispensing, but it also recognised how smaller steps to implement IT systems like barcoding on medicines could help ensure dispensing accuracy in the short term.

Overall, the recommendations put forward by the Health and Sport Committee are aligned with the core aims and ethos of Omnicell, with our research undoubtedly having an impact on the report’s overall findings. Fundamentally, Omnicell and the Health and Sport Committee both agree that patients “expect and deserve a better system”. Omnicell’s main goal is to improve patient safety through pioneering technology, and hopes that in light of this report, significant changes will begin to be put in place across the country to achieve this.”

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