In the past we discussed the uses for computers in healthcare facilities or hospitals. While we provided some solid guidelines, we didn’t address the various departments, their specialties, and unique requirements.

Here we’ll be covering one of them ﹘ the pharmacy department ﹘ from its history, function in the hospital, to the best computers to use this important area.

What is the Hospital Pharmacy Department?

Pharmacy is the clinical health science that links medical science with chemistry. The field covers the discovery, production, disposal, safe and effective use, and control of medications and drugs. 

Hospital pharmacy is a specialized field of pharmacy. It is the department that prepares, compounds, stocks and dispenses inpatient medications. Unsurprisingly, it’s found in hospitals 

Pharmacies within hospitals differ considerably from community pharmacies like the local drugstore. Many hospital pharmacists deal with more complex clinical medication management issues. Depending on the numerous patients’ medication schedule, hospital pharmacies may provide a huge quantity of medications per day. These are allocated to the wards and to intensive care units. To handle these loads, larger hospitals may use automated transport systems or decentralized pharm services like drug dispensers. 

The First Pharmacies 

Islamic scholars are widely credited for having come up with the concept of apothecary and, later, pharmacies and pharmacists. In Baghdad the first pharmacies, or drug stores, were established in 754 under the Abbasid Caliphate. 

Who Works In Hospital Pharmacies?

The practice of pharmacy requires excellent knowledge of drugs, their mechanism of action, side effects, interactions, mobility, and toxicity. At the same time, it requires knowledge of treatment and understanding of the human body’s pathological process. 

Pharmacist

Pharmacists are the healthcare professionals who specialize in the practice of pharmacy. Their role in the hospital is varied. Some of their more common duties include:

  • Devising individualized medication plans that are for patients
  • Assisting providers and other healthcare professionals in drug-based decisions
  • Compounding medications
  • Helping patients understand their medications and how to use them
  • Conducting clinical trials of new treatments
  • Providing medicines in emergency situations
  • Assisting in specialized medical care

Many pharmacists gain more education and training through a pharmacy practice residency. Afterwards, they may specialize even further. There are pharmacists for hematology/oncology, HIV/AIDS, and nuclear pharmacy to name a few.

Pharmacist Technician

Assisting the pharmacist is the pharmacist technician. They’re responsible for the overall efficiency and safety of pharmacy operations. 

Pharmacy technicians, or pharm techs, usually split their duties between processing prescriptions and providing customer service. They include:

  • Filling or ordering prescriptions 
  • Taking down information from patients
  • Keeping accurate records
  • Packaging medicine
  • Dealing with insurance companies
  • Keeping inventory

Pharmacy technicians in a hospital in addition may work with IV medications (medicine delivered through a needle and tube in a patient’s vein), laboratory prep as sterilization (deep cleaning), and maintain the drug-dispensary machines (automated vending machines that give out medicine) used by the nurses for patients. 

Non-pharmacist personnel who can be found in the hospital pharmacy include providers, RNs, various aids, and retail clerks. 

According to the Bureau of Statistics, the US alone employs 312,550 pharmacists. The World Health Organization estimates that around the world there are at least 2.6 million pharmacists and other pharmaceutical personnel like pharm technicians. 

The Hospital Pharmacy Room

Typical hospital pharmacies have a main room surrounded and linked to smaller ones.

The clean room is one of these and an important one. It’s a controlled, typically aseptic environment in which the concentration of airborne particles like pathogens is reduced by particle filtration, air locks, or positive pressure ventilation. Staff use the clean room to process sterile orders like total parenteral nutrition (TPN) or for drugs given intravenously (IV) as some antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents.

Equipment found in a typical hospital pharmacy room include balances, distillated water maker, filters, isolators, compounding containers, autoclave, capsule-filling machines, heater, pressure pump, vacuum pump, refrigerator, condensometer, and pH-meter. An important piece of equipment is the carousel. Found in most hospital pharmacies, this device looks like a wall-size cabinet with drawers. Stored medications are rotated behind it which pharm techs can select and retrieve from the drawers.

Pill Machines

“Pill machines” were invented in Germany around 1750 to assist pharmacists. The pharmacist, after creating a pill “mass” using a flat board and a rolling pin, would then use the grooved parts of the machine to mold the pills into rounded shapes on both sides. When this mass dried, the pills could be broken along the lines of the grooves, creating smooth, identical forms. Some pharmacists also used a “pill finisher” to coat the raw pills with gelatin, varnish, or fine talc powder.

On average, these machines made 18 to 24 pills at a time with some as many as 50. Pill machines were discontinued in the US in the 1930s. 

Best Computers for Hospital Pharmacy

Needless to say, computers have an important role in this part of the hospital. With so many options it’s hard to decide what computers work best. Medical computers that have proven ideal usually have properties like: 

Fanless design

Many off-the-shelf computers use fans to keep cool. These fans can blow dust, germs, and microbes around which can affect the sterility of drugs. Fanless computers use a combination of low power consumption components, a reduction of moving parts, and heat sinks to manage heat while the spread of air-borne pathogens. 

Medical grade 

Pharmacies use a variety of machines in drug development. Many are extremely precise and could be thrown off due to electromagnetic interference. Medical grade computers are UL/cUL 60601-1 & IEC 60601-1-2 4th Edition certified. They have been vetted to be safe for near patient use. The PC located in the pharmacy will not interfere with the various equipment. 

Small size

Medical device computers with screens around 15” are ideal in the limited space of most pharmacy rooms especially near compounding machines. 

Antimicrobial & IP65 sealed 

PCs built with antimicrobial properties have casings that stop bacterial growth on their surfaces. Those rated IP65 are sealed from dust and liquid penetration like cleaners, protecting internal components from damage. Both help maintain the sterility necessity in many pharmacy operations. 

RFID scanner 

Portable PCs like medical tablets can be equipped to scan barcodes placed on medications handled by the pharmacy department. This helps with tracking and inventory management. 

Closing Comments

A hospital pharmacy’s primary goal is the management of medications in hospitals and related healthcare facilities. Pharmacists and pharm techs work with providers and other medical staff to ensure patients receive the right medications as part of their treatment. 

If your medical group or hospital wants help equipping this vital department, contact a representative from Cybernet. As a true device manufacturer, Cybernet can customize products to meet your specific needs in a timely and cost-effective manner. 

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