The simple look and design of EzyMed's medicine organiser packs reduce an individual's unintentional non-adherence to prescribed medications, especially where there are multiple medications to be taken at once or on a given day, and also for older Australians for whom managing medications and their packaging can be challenging. Traditionally, dose administration aids are packed and supplied manually through an aged care facility's pharmacy, however this can be very time consuming and demanding due to the complexity of medications involved. Ezymed were keen to investigate whether they could develop an improved and automated solution to boost efficiency and save costs.
Automating the development of dose administration aids
Medication non-adherence is a principal obstacle in successful pharmacotherapy and often results in increased demand of health care resources or hospitalisations. In aged care settings, where there is higher reliance on pharmaceuticals, the risks of medication non-adherence are heightened.
The outbreak of COVID-19 exposed weaknesses in the Australian pharmaceutical sector, with disruptions in pharmaceutical supply chains forcing the Australian pharmaceutical industry to assess their whole supply chain.
Equally, the aged care sector has been under significant strain during this time. Traditional, manual administration systems, operational processes and even aspects of the way in which care is delivered to an individual, are heavily reliant on human labour. These traditional and labour driven systems were unprepared and ill-equipped to cope during COVID-19.
In the face of these challenges, interest in Ezymed - a deployment service of pharmaceuticals, sitting at the intersection of, and automating the delivery of, pharmaceuticals to the aged care sector - grew significantly. But with high stakes - dose administration aids must be accurate and correct every time - EzyMed needed a way to scale the business in response to demand, while also ensuring its processes and systems maintained the highest possible quality and accuracy. In a sector where accuracy is prime, EzyMed's confidence in its own automated business processes was critical. However, before any automation technologies could be investigated, EzyMed's large amounts of complex and sometimes disparate or incompatible data would need to be addressed.
Automation enhanced by data, AI and engineering
EzyMed sought specialised expertise of Dr Morteza Saberi from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and with the support from the Entrepreneurs' Programme Innovation Connections service, an Australian Government initiative which is funded and supported by the Australian Government, they scoped a project to develop a data-driven based process monitoring and reporting system. To achieve computer driven quality assurance and accuracy systems, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced software engineering methods were also used to drive automation and enable the EzyMed packing service to be more agile, accurate and contactless.
The EzyMed model fundamentally provides the engine room through which community pharmacies service aged care facilities. At the same time, EzyMed provide data reporting and dashboards to both pharmacies and staff of aged care facilities, to ensure both have visibility of residents' medications and the medication supply chain.
In addition to a dedicated UTS researcher, EzyMed also received funding to support a researcher directly employed within their business. These two researchers co-located, working alongside each other to document current systems and identify systems automation opportunities, reduce human touch points in EzyMed process flows and implement AI driven quality and assurance processes.
The research was able to identify and implement several automation efficiencies to EzyMed’s existing processes, and the company is now well poised to capitalise on the major growth opportunities before it.
This new solution is now allowing orders to be delivered weekly to aged care facility pharmacists around the country. The use of digital technologies has increased both packing accuracy and productivity, with EzyMed experiencing a 20-30 per cent uplift in productivity.
Encouraged by the successful impact of this project on EzyMed’s productive capacity, EzyMed and UTS have since been awarded Investment NSW TechVouchers funding to progress automation in the business even further and harness the increased demand for its services.
Our project with UTS thanks to Innovation Connections has allowed us to utilise data in revolutionary ways, pioneering the visibility of medication management and supply. Engagement with the research team at UTS has made this all possible. We hope our continued relationship will help us consistently stay ahead of the curve and meet the everchanging challenges faced by our aged care sector.
— Ali Alzamily, Director, EzyMed
A business’ domain knowledge, coupled with our focused expertise, can accelerate a project of this nature and make the digital transformation much smoother and more effective. We were surprised by how clearly EzyMed knew what they wanted and how prepared they were to be involved in detailed discussions. This model of collaborative development - a virtue circle - guaranteed the success of proposed features.
— Dr Morteza Saberi, University of Technology Sydney