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In the processes of delivering therapy to patients, 61% of medication errors occur between the order verification process, dispensing, and administration. According to the IOM, on average every hospital patient is probably subjected to at least one medication error every day and over $21 billion annually goes toward treating the consequences of medication errors. These preventable medication errors demand an efficient medication tracking system integrated in each step of hospital workflow, so healthcare professionals can catch errors before they reach the patient. Ideally, the solution to preventing medication errors will not only simply track a medication, but also provide a system that reduces health care professional’s workload, and be customizable to serve multiple purposes.

What it does

Our product improves hospital efficiency by reducing delay of medication administration, severely reducing time that nurses spend tracking down missing medication, reducing preventable medication errors, and providing a secure system for tracking the logistics of medication in the hospital.

We do this by attaching a NFC tag to each unit dose. Medications for patients in the hospital are packaged per pill instead of given in large stock bottles that you find supermarkets. When scanned, the NFC tag will reveal the unique number for the pill, its NDC (national drug code), expiration date, and lot number. This system makes it so nurses no longer need to scan individual barcodes but can instead wave multiple pills over a sensor before administration to a patient. Sensors at different walkways, floors and rooms can track the location of each pill (similar to how cars are tracked in a ezpass lane) with no effort on the nurses part and also allow other hospital healthcare professionals to immediately know if a pill is misplaced. Furthermore, this system acts is an instant verification system to make sure pills are not accidentally administered to the wrong patient, as at least 1.5 million Americans injured by medication errors every year. Finally, the system can also automatically alert the hospital when the pill expires or if the lot number is recalled. Ultimately, the NFC tags offer a fast and efficient system to monitor and reduce the probability of medication errors reaching the patient and causing harm.

We chose to track the unit package through NFC for a couple of reasons. Tags are also very non-intrusive and can be kept inside of products. The tags and readers are super cheap with each individual tag costing as little as 2 cents each. Furthermore, the range is large enough that unit doses can be batch scanned which will severely reduce time that nurses spend scanning each individual unit dose.

This system will save the hospital money due to a variety of reasons. First, it reduces time spent scanning barcodes. Second, we can use data visualization to optimize workflow and determine where pills are commonly misplaced. Due to how fast inventory can be taken, a tighter inventory can be implemented. Finally, hospitals will be able to reduce the money wasted on re-dispensing medications that were lost, reducing opportunity costs for menial tasks and by flagging soon to expire medications.

How I built it

Challenges I ran into

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

What I learned

What's next for Pharmascope

Currently, we can prove that scanning multiple NFC tags in close proximity is possible using a simple tracker inside android phones. In the future, these tags will be used to count inventory of medications delivered to the pharmacy. The pharmacy will also be able to reprogram tags as needed in the main pharmacy. A tracker would be mounted in locations throughout the hospital such as the pharmacy, hallways, medication rooms, and patient rooms. These trackers would scan NFC tags within unit dose packages as they are walked past by nurses and technicians, resulting in real time tracking of medication location throughout the hospital. Not only would location be tracked, but quantity of medication in various areas of the hospital can be kept since trackers are able to detect multiple tags at once. The NFC tags would give the hospital full control over their medication management. The unique ID of each NFC tag can be associated to monitoring parameters for various potential errors and frequency of NFC tag scanning throughout the hospital means errors will be more likely to be caught before reaching the patient. Finally, unit dose delivery can be automated to deliver medications to a person at a specific time.

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