Pharmacy Awareness Month

By Humber River Hospital

Every March, Pharmacy Awareness Month (PAM) celebrates the contributions that Canadian pharmacists and pharmacy technicians make to our health care system. Here at Humber River Hospital, we celebrate Pharmacy Awareness Week, reminding one another about all the ways in which patients and their health providers benefit from the many services that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians deliver.

Albert Karas, Director of Pharmacy Services at Humber River Hospital, oversees a pharmacy management team and staff with 52 pharmacists and 61 technicians, all working in collaboration with other healthcare practitioners to ensure that patients receive their medications safely and efficiently. It’s also important that patients understand what medications they are taking and why, and have the other important information they need to optimize the use of their medications. Pharmacists can provide this information and answer any questions they have.

In the more than 25 years that Albert has been a pharmacist, the landscape in which pharmacists and pharmacy technicians work has changed dramatically. Albert points to the RIVA robot system as a great example of that. The RIVA robot is used to prepare potent and potentially hazardous cancer medications in a fully contained enclosure.

“This is really a noticeable and amazing use for this kind of robotic technology,” says Albert. “Oncology drugs can be hazardous to handle, so you can avoid potential occupational exposure by using this automation. Also, the preparation of these medications needs to be very exact, so the accuracy and safety of this technology has many advantages over hands-on preparation by a staff member.”

The RIVA robot is also integrated with the hospital’s closed loop medication management system, meaning that orders and prescriptions only need to be entered once, and are never written out in sometimes difficult to read handwriting. This greatly reduces the opportunities for medication errors and enhances patient safety and oversight.

While some may see the use of robots and automation as reducing the need for humans to do work or have jobs, Albert sees just the opposite. Having a RIVA robot and other automation enhances reliability and safety especially in the compounding and preparation of medications. This allows staff to do the things automation cannot do, which includes the more patient-facing aspects of health care.

“Automation frees up our pharmacists and technicians to work more collaboratively with doctors and nurses and provide better direct patient care. Providing support, advice and information about the medications patients are taking, that is when the profession of pharmacy is at its best.”