Invention may end medicine mix-ups

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 April, 2006, 12:00am

Hong Kong Polytechnic scientists yesterday unveiled a computerised medicine cabinet to help minimise drug mix-ups.

The 'eMed Administrator' is a $10,000 unit that uses radio frequency identification technology to dispense medicine and detect medication misuse.

'We developed this e-Med Administrator tele-health system to overcome the problem of wrong medication taking,' said Thomas Wong Kwok-shing, dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences.

Each medicine is labelled with an identification tag and its information is stored in a central database. The identification tag allows the medicine to be tracked whenever it is taken out of the medicine cabinet, which has a built-in radio frequency identification reader, said Joanne Chung Wai-yee, professor of the School of Nursing.

The data can also be retrieved remotely by health professionals, who can monitor the patient's medication consumption.

The database contains 370 Chinese medicines and thousands of western medicines.

Under standard practice, drugs are checked using the 'three checks, five rights' principle to reduce the chance of a mix-up.

The 'checks' involve checking the label before taking medication off the shelf, checking it against the prescription, and checking it before putting the container away. The five 'rights' are checking for the right date, patient, drug, dose, and route, or application.

Professor Wong said nurses at homes for the elderly using the eMed Administrator no longer have to do the checks manually.

Patients are given a card, which the machine reads to confirm their identity, so: 'When you take the drug out of the trolley, the system will check if it is the right drug, the right person and the right time. All the nurses have to do is make sure it is the right dosage and the right route.'

The system was awarded a gold medal in the 34th International Exhibition of Inventions, New Techniques and Products this month in Geneva.