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Centralised and patient-specific

14 September 2023

Advances in logistics automation are revolutionising the healthcare supply chain, explains Craig Rollason.

THE PHARMACEUTICAL supply chain is changing at a rapid rate. The traditional model – a doctor giving a prescription to a pharmacist, who provides medicine to the patient – has seen considerable disruption in recent years, and the potential for efficiencies and cost savings is huge.

KNAPP has been a high-tech partner in the healthcare sector for more than 70 years, supplying solutions for over 1400 customers in the industry worldwide. These cover the entire pharmaceutical value chain – from production to wholesale, and wholesale to the patient. Proven technologies – such as the Central Belt System, OSR Shuttle automated store, Pick-it-Easy Robot and KNAPP-Store – have recently been joined by new solutions for central dispensing that are proving extremely popular.

Central dispensing

In the central dispensing model, prescriptions and orders from doctors or pharmacies arrive in electronic form at an automated distribution centre, where they are fulfilled individually for each patient. For example, KNAPP’s Pack2Patient system offers automatic assembly of patient-specific orders, with fast order processing and full traceability through the use of smart cameras. The solution prints and applies labels on the fly as articles pass through the system. The fully automated process includes article verification, sorting of medicines into patient orders, quality checking, bagging and labelling for dispatch. The automated fulfilment of prescriptions outside of pharmacies is not only rapid and secure, it helps mitigate the effects of labour shortages in distribution centres and frees up time for pharmacists to offer advice to patients. In the UK alone, KNAPP has delivered or is installing Pack2Patient systems for six leading pharmaceutical companies.

Patient-specific packs 

A further innovation for the healthcare sector is taking direct-to-patient services a step further. The D³ Daily Dose Dispenser enables fully automatic creation of patient-specific medication packs. This solution enables tablets to be picked directly from their original blister packs into a new, personalised blister card that is printed with patient-specific information on the medication and how to take it.

KNAPP’s D³ Daily Dose Dispenser puts an end to labour-intensive deblistering, intermediate storage in containers, the need for visual inspection and manual sealing. It also avoids the risks of tablet abrasion and cross-contamination, while ensuring hygienic clean-room processes. Comprehensive tracking of lot numbers, expiry dates and charges ensures 100% quality control and traceability for every pill dispensed. The first D3 Daily Dose Dispenser recently came on stream at the facility of pharmaceutical service provider, MicuraPharm, in Germany. Using the system, MicuraPharm can produce weekly blister cards for up to 5,000 patients per shift with the assistance of just two employees. 

Vision technology

Key elements of KNAPP’s automation for the healthcare sector are the Central Belt System (AKA the A-frame autopicker) and the KNAPP-Store solution (featuring mini cranes that store medication on adjustable glass shelves). Together, these technologies take care of automated order picking of both fast-moving and slow-moving articles for many pharmaceutical wholesalers worldwide. They are supported by vision technology from KNAPP group member, ivii, which reads data matrix codes on product packaging in real time. Items are scanned as they are picked, to ensure error-free fulfilment.

Other healthcare automation solutions include KNAPP Hospital Campus, a modular concept for the provision of hospital services including medication dispensing, ward supplies, central sterilisation, hospital meals and laundry services. Then KNAPP Smart Solutions provides 24/7 touchscreen terminals for pharmacies, enabling patients to browse medication, order items, pay for them and collect them straight away. With these terminals capable of being linked to pharmacists working remotely, who can conduct virtual consultations with patients via video, they are set to revolutionise the healthcare supply chain even further.

Craig Rollason, managing director, KNAPP UK

For more information, visit www.knapp.com