The speed with which patient care can be delivered across remote locations has always been one of the biggest concerns of the healthcare industry. Currently, efforts are underway to promote the use of automatic dispensation systems which can yield prescription drugs without the need for a doctor or pharmacist. All major global medical device and pharma players understand how it can improve the healthcare system and also help in tapping new markets, especially ‘rural’ markets.
According to MarketsandMarkets.com research study, the global dispensing systems market is expected to grow with a CAGR of 5.1% from 2015 to 2020. Even governments worldwide have encouraged certification and regulation authorities like US-FDA to have proper guidelines and standards in place to help companies enable faster and more accurate product designs.
The following is a list of major considerations that need to be taken into account for designing remote drug dispensing systems.
Mechanical design forms the most critical parameter of remote drug dispensing systems. These systems typically have electro-mechanical parts to control drug dispensing. The design of such a system needs to be precise and programmable, so that drugs can be dispensed accurately as per the prescribed dosage. The implementation should be given enough field trials before they can be finally adapted in product design. Product enclosure designs also forms an important part of mechanical design effort and enough care should be taken to ensure vandal protection and ruggedness of the material being used.
Board design is another important factor that needs enough attention for ensuring product success. Choice of low power chipsets like TI Sitara, Qualcomm or Freescale i.MX6/i.MX7 will ensure longer uninterrupted operation. Heat and electromagnetic interference should not impact hardware performance and the design needs to take care of these parameters. PCB also has to be rugged enough to ensure that IP65 or higher compliance regulations are met with success.
As there are multiple critical drugs which need a practicing physician’s prescription, it is important to have a proper security policy in place to ensure that the drugs being dispensed are as per prescription. In this context, the major challenge is to ascertain whether the patient is carrying the right prescription with him or he needs the drug for ulterior motives. It is recommended to have a biometric authentication of preregistered patients on the central server and then permit access to drugs from any remote drug dispensing system without the hassle of carrying prescriptions all the time.
Graphical user interface (GUI) is an important parameter of drug dispensing system product design. The GUI should be easy to understand with informative instructions so that it can be used without any hassles. The GUI needs to be intuitive to be more user-friendly.
Drug inventory management is another area of concern for remote drug dispensing systems. Adequate sensors need to be integrated in hardware to count the number of drug vials/ tablets available in the system. These sensors can be based on RFID tags for low-power requirements. The hardware needs to have the provision to work as in IoT gateway for cloud connectivity and pass on drug data over the Ethernet.
Video conferencing can help patients to talk to doctors and help them to diagnose better. The doctor can also demonstrate any procedure to be carried out during medication. The hardware needs to support video transcoding and the software design should support RTP/RTSP with SIP.
As these systems are put in operation at remote locations, it becomes critical that they are easy to install and do not need specialized skills for the same.
All these factors cover majority of the concerns which are critical in defining the success of a remote drug dispensing system.