Greater efficiency and improved patient outcomes – those are the benefits of two technological innovations at Piedmont Health.

Piedmont Health’s Burlington Community Health Center (CHC) Pharmacy will soon begin using SynMed, a robot device that packages prescription medicines into compliance bubble packs. Piedmont recently began using lifts that allow dentists to treat patients in their wheelchairs without moving them to a dental chair.

Both innovations benefit staff and patients alike.

Piedmont acquired the SynMed robot in October of 2016, and is set to put the robot into operation by Nov. 1, according to Kelly Stout, Piedmont Health’s Associate Director of Pharmacy Administration.

“We’re taking some of the manual labor out of packaging medication and automating it,” Stout said. “It’s more efficient because the robot can package the bubble packs up to five times faster.”

SynMed’s increased speed also allows for a more flexible packaging schedule, she said. Stout explained that, with the current process, pharmacy staff must begin packaging medication early in the month to get them ready for the first of the following month, when the packages are distributed to patients. Doctors sometimes make changes in medication during the month after seeing patients, and those changes often require the medications to be repackaged.

With the newly automated process, the medication packaging can be done closer to the end of the month and can take into account last-minute changes, requiring less repacking, Stout said. Eventually, this will allow the pharmacy to offer this service to more Piedmont patients, she said.

Initially, SynMed will serve participants in the Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly in Burlington and Pittsboro.  Long-term plans call for offering this service to all of Piedmont’s health centers, Stout said.

This innovation puts Piedmont Health at the forefront of technology, according to Piedmont Health CEO Brian Toomey.  The addition of this technology will improve patient compliance and ease of medication administration, therefore yielding better patient outcomes.  Stout said that about 70 other pharmacy providers around the country – only one other in North Carolina – have SynMed.

“It’s cutting edge technology,” she said. “We’re very excited that Piedmont acquired this system for us to better serve our patients.”

The wheelchair lifts in the dental department were made possible by a grant from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department announced in August. Piedmont Health acquired the machine for the new dental clinic at the Burlington Community Health Center. It serves both the health center and the PACE facility in Burlington, said Katrina Mattison-Chalwe, Piedmont’s Dental Director. She added that the machines can be moved to other Piedmont Health facilities.

The lifts allow dentists to treat a greater number of patients, Dr. Mattison-Chalwe said. “Normally, someone in a wheelchair has to have someone come with them to help lift them and get them into the dental chair because we are not trained for transfers,” she said. Both employees and patients are at risk of injury during the transfer, she explained.

“With the new lifts, all patients in wheelchairs can be served,” Dr. Mattison-Chalwe said.

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