At the beginning of the 21st century, Kuopio University Hospital (KUH) started to plan a new extension, the Kaari Hospital. At the same time, it was decided that the KUH Pharmacy needed to be renovated.

The two projects were executed simultaneously “under the same umbrella,” as KUH chief pharmacist Toivo Naaranlahti points out, in order to integrate the pharmaceutical services with the hospital’s medical processes.

Safety first

“Our mission was to increase patient safety and decrease and prevent errors in medical care,” Toivo Naaranlahti explains. “We wanted to improve and enhance the medical processes inside the hospital, and to make sure that the processes would support the patients’ medical care.”

As a solution, KUH decided to invest in technology. Virtually it meant smart medical cabinets and automated storage robots. “But smart medical cabinets and storage robots are not enough,” Toivo Naaranlahti points out, “we also need software that integrates all the necessary elements together.”

And Affecto’s Marela does just that. “The biggest advantage of automation is that data transfers between systems smoothly and reliably,” Toivo Naaranlahti says. “Theoretically it would be possible to handle the entire medical process automatically, but in practice we want to keep an eye on what is happening at all times.”

Smart cabinets for smart usage

Before the renovation, hospital wards used to purchase medicine in large batches and store it in their own storage rooms. Now the medicine inside the smart medical cabinet belongs to the pharmacy, and the wards pay only for the medicine they actually use. “If the medicine runs out, Marela will alert the pharmacy, and we will refill the cabinet,” Toivo Naaranlahti explains. “We are now in charge of supplying medicine directly to the wards. It is a big change for us.”

Altogether, there are 44 smart medical cabinets inside the Kaari Hospital. “Basically they are automated metal cabinets with electronic locks,” Toivo Naaranlahti describes. “But inside, there is an electronic system that instructs the user to pick the correct product. And before you can open the cabinet, you need to identify yourself with an ID-card. Thus, the whole process can be easily monitored.”

The cabinets ensure that the medicine is always there where it is needed most. “Every operating room, recovery room, and intensive care room have their own smart medical cabinet,” Toivo Naaranlahti says. “So there is no need to leave the room, for example in the middle of a surgery, to fetch more medicine. Most of the cabinets are installed inside the wall, so they can be filled from outside.”

A good partner offers solutions

The automation project could not be delivered without a capable partner. “Naturally we expect our partner to be an expert in the ICT-industry,” Toivo Naaranlahti says. “And of course, it is important that they are trustworthy, and deliver what is promised. Times have changed, and instead on tangible goods, we buy more and more solutions. When creating something new, it is essential to stay solution-focused.”

As well as problem-solving skills, productive cooperation between the system supplier and the hospital requires mutual trust and communication. “Affecto understands our needs well, and we speak the same language. That is why I believe there is a good chance that our project will be a success,” Toivo Naaranlahti says. “But there is still a lot more to look forward to.”

The new system has been in use for a few months now, and the journey is just beginning. “Fully automated medical care process is a brand new concept in Finland, which is why we have had to start from scratch,” Toivo Naaranlahti explains. “And we still have a long road ahead of us. Since Marela is one of the basic pillars on which everything relies, Affecto will have an important role to play in the process.”

Kuopio University Hospital is one of the five university hospitals in Finland. It is in charge of the demanding specialized medical care of nearly a million patients. During the next decade, Kuopio University Hospital will be upgraded to become one of Europe’s most modern hospitals. The hospital’s most important task is to provide the best possible care to patients in all fields of specialized medical care. The hospital also engages in internationally recognized research and education of new top experts in Finnish health care. KUH Pharmacy has been using Marela since 2003.