Did you know the machines that Wired magazine called “busy little robot nurses” now roam the halls of many hospitals? Aethon™ TUG robots work like self-driving cars to deliver medicines, food and linens. But as with all new technology, it can take some time and tweaks for hospitals to use robots in a way that saves time for real nurses.
In a presentation at last month’s Voalte User Experience conference (VUE19), Roberta Romeo Shannon, Project Manager of Strategic Projects & Clinical Systems at UConn Health, shared how new alerts to the nurses’ Voalte smartphones are reducing the number of medications returned to the pharmacy.
In the new University Tower, some units are located nearly ¼-mile from the pharmacy. Instead of hiring more people to make deliveries, UConn Health decided to use TUGs and MedEx™ TubeSafe, a pneumatic system that delivers medications from the pharmacy to inpatient units. After implementing these delivery methods, however, UConn Health experienced a new challenge: With busy nurses moving among different rooms to care for patients, they often didn’t know that a medication had been delivered.
This lack of awareness triggered the following workflow inefficiencies:
- When a TUG robot reaches its destination, it waits 15 minutes before returning to the pharmacy, even if the medication hasn’t been picked up. The pharmacy must then receive the medication and reprocess the order.
- Medications sent by tube wait in an in-wall “parking lot,” where they can sit for longer than recommended for medications that require cold storage.
In June 2019, a workflow study found that nearly 5% of TUG deliveries returned to the University Tower pharmacy with their medications still on board. Given this high rate of returns, it’s not surprising that pharmacists were reluctant to use the TUGs, which accounted for only 9% of total medication deliveries.
To get more value from its TUGs investment and deliver medications to patients faster and more efficiently, UConn Health integrated Voalte smartphone alerts with TUGs, TubeSafe and pharmacy and nurse call technologies. Today, when TUGs reach their destination, they send an alert announcing their arrival to the nurse assigned to that patient.
The new initiative went live on October 8, 2019, with these goals:
- Eliminate any returned drugs.
- Increase the number of TUG deliveries.
- Decrease the average TUG trip times.
At VUE19, Roberta shared the hospital’s early results, which included a nearly 50% drop (2.58%) in TUG robot deliveries returned to the pharmacy with medications still on board. She also indicated that Voalte will soon integrate with TubeSafe and the Epic EHR, and that her team has begun researching how to send radiology alerts for stat and critical results.
To learn more about how UConn Health is taking full advantage of Voalte solutions for connected care, watch the video.