June 08, 2012 by Stan Wright
New technologies continue to evolve the medical field, and the Drexel Student Health Center is at the front with its QuiqMeds Onsite Digital Pharmacy, a device the center acquired in January that fills a patient’s prescription in seconds, streamlining the University’s student health care process.
The machine, essentially a secure vending machine stocked with the DSHC’s formulary of medicines, is the first of its kind at a college health center. In lieu of writing out a prescription, a physician or nurse practitioner need only enter a patient’s medicine and dosage into a touch-screen computer. This information is transmitted to the device, which stands behind the reception desk at the center.
In under a minute, the machine sorts through a catalog of medicines including antibiotics, over-the-counter medications, allergy medications and even contraceptives to fill a patient’s prescription before they’re discharged.
“Everybody asks, ‘Why can’t I just get my meds from my doctor?’ And now you can. It’s the one-stop shop. It’s the convenience of a pharmacy at your doctor’s office,” Hasan Fazelbhoy, QuiqMeds’ client executive, said. “We just took a whole pharmacy and automated it.”
The device carries generic medications, some of which cost no more than the 10-dollar copayment, making the digital pharmacy a more appealing option than filling a prescription at a traditional pharmacy.
“Students have told me that they love the convenience of the system,” DSHC medical director Leslie Everts, said. “When one student went to CVS to fill her prescription, she had to wait in line for 20 minutes even though we had e-prescribed it and it was supposed to be ready to pick up.”
Everts also says she appreciates the safety and consistency the digital pharmacy provides.
“It decreases the possibility of medical errors. You know when you have the little bottles on the shelf or you’re counting out pills, there’s always room for error. But because it’s so automated, there are a lot of checks and balances to keep you from getting the wrong medication,” she said.
“We use this machine because of the safety and security of the meds and because we never have dispensed the wrong medication to a patient,” Fazelbhoy added.
There are other safety-related measures the system provides for, as well. The high-capacity machine, which can hold between 500 and 700 units of medicine, remains locked between restocks, eliminating the possibility of theft. Additionally, physicians have individual PINs for the monitor so that only they can create prescriptions with the device.
But Everts also thinks that having an in-house pharmacy is a safer option for students.
“Especially for our students who come in during the evenings, I think they really appreciate that they don’t have to walk to the pharmacy after 7 p.m.,” Everts said, noting that co-op students take advantage of the DSCH’s extended hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
She continued, “A lot of people are just thrilled that they can walk out with [their medication]. They love the convenience of it.”
One such person is Drexel student Gabriela Mejia, a sophomore nursing major who sees the value in having an onsite pharmacy.
“I think that it’s better to have the medication in the machine in house because although you can go to CVS and get the medication there, those pharmacists are really busy and don’t really have the time,” Mejia said. “You’re already sitting [in the health center], and you can talk to them about medications you’re already taking, and they can talk to you about drug interactions and things like that. And it’s a lot cheaper for them to just give you the medication while you’re already there.”
Sophomore communication student Lindsay Siegel said she thinks the digital pharmacy will help to reduce errors when receiving prescriptions.
“One time I went [to the center] and the doctor said she would call in my prescription to CVS, but when I went to pick it up it turned out she never called it in,” she said. “So now with the new system, hopefully those issues won’t come up.”
QuiqMeds Digital Pharmacy operates with a minimum monthly overhead, and students can pay for the medications they receive from it via cash, credit card or check. One can even get a prescription refilled at the machine.
The company has made its name by innovating prescription fulfillment technologies. Different vending units may be provided to accommodate various types of medication, but the group’s real pride is in the software that makes it all possible.
“A two-dimensional barcode ensures the right medication is delivered to the right patient. The machine also features automated inventory management, automated expiration and recall monitoring, and medication reordering,” Fazelbhoy, a Drexel alumnus, said.
QuiqMeds is constantly improving its technology and will soon offer scannable barcodes on prescription bottles so that patients can read instructions regarding their medication on their phone. Other QuiqMeds Digital Pharmacy models are refrigerated, allowing for clinics to potentially store vaccines in the machines.
Of the 100 QuiqMeds systems in operation across the country, Drexel houses two: one at the Student Health Center and another at the Drexel Convenient Care Center on 16th Street between Market and Chestnut streets.
Everts heard about the care center’s system earlier this year and was eager to get another machine for the health center.
“We heard about the machine being used at [the care center], and because dispensing medication is a popular thing done at student health centers and we were interested in having a system, someone suggested we look into QuiqMeds,” Everts said. “The fact that there was already a QuiqMeds machine at Drexel that had already been approved meant that it wasn’t going to be an issue [for us].”
“We did a demonstration for Everts and the student health center staff, and they wanted to make sure that it was going to integrate. One of the key things was that it needed to be part of the process for the prescriber, the staff and the patient,” Fazelbhoy said.
Everts was quick to point out that the digital pharmacy is just an option for students, who still have the option of filling their prescription outside of the health center. She noted that the machine doesn’t contain all medicines students could be prescribed, just the common ones, and that some prescriptions would need to be filled elsewhere.
Fazelbhoy said the ultimate goal of the technology is “to make medication compliance a part of patient care.”
“We find that when the prescriber hands the medications to the patient, they’re more likely to take it, get better healthcare and get well faster.”
“You’re leading the parade here by revolutionizing pharmacy prescription fulfillment and patient care,” Fazelbhoy said to Everts. “I think it’s better medicine, honestly. You’re really taking care of the patient from start to finish.”