A bag to save lives...

This entry was posted December 6, 2018
Case: A medical bag to save lives...

In close partnership with the Regional Hospital West Jutland, Westpack is the co-innovator behind a unique solution to prevent medication error. Inspired by the jewellery trade and sparring partners, the popular medication bag came out in spring 2018 and is currently being trialled among 25,000 patients nationwide in Denmark. Here's the story that led to this innovation.

It all started with a pilot project at the Regional Hospital West Jutland. In a questionnaire, a student had interviewed patients about perceived shortcomings or failings during their hospital stay, and the responses provided a clear picture of the need to make it easier to bring personal medication into the hospital.

Other studies reveal that up to 14 per cent of all hospital admissions are due to patients taking the wrong or too much medicine. 80 per cent of these situations are serious. 2-3 per cent end in the death of the patient.

From moulded plastic to a sweet wrapper

Once the need was identified, product development got underway. The first prototype was a bag made of moulded plastic; a solution that took up a lot of space and was relatively costly to produce. For further development, Christian Bjerrum, Innovation Consultant with Central Denmark Region, reached out to a number of companies, including Westpack, where he made contact with Key Account Manager Maja Amdi-Fisker.

Westpack was up for the challenge there and then, while the other companies bowed out. This saw the start of a promising process involving materials and models.

Maja recounts: “We started with prototypes made from paper; making a bag that could fit inside a hospital bedside table but could still be kept closed. We experimented with card, plastic and textile and looked for inspiration online and in our design archives.” And those archives led to the first breakthrough. Maja goes on to explain: “We found an old sweet-wrapper-style jewellery box with a firm base and soft satin top that cinched at the top with a cord. That was a great starting point.”

Interaction with China

The next step was to involve Westpack's Chinese design team. Through a series of proactive brainstorming sessions, the intercultural team arrived at several key conclusions: the base needed to be firm enough to keep the bag upright, while the top had to be soft enough to allow it to be folded down around the basis so as to allow the bag to have a dual open and closed function. The bag would need to be flat-packed until use, and the textile had to be washable. These conclusions, combined with Maja's and Christian's preliminary design process, resulted in a physical sample.

Maja has the story: “The first sample to arrive from China was spot-on. We just needed to adjust the length of the drawcord, but that was all. We ordered 5,000 units for trialling out among the patients, who were very positive.”

The bag is designed to stand upright like a practical, open 'basket' of medication in the patient's home. If the person then needs to go to the hospital or see their doctor, they can easily fold up the sides, cinch the drawcord at the top and take their medication with them.

Following yet another minor adjustment, the bag was soon ready for the pilot project. This means that the bag is currently being trialled by a further 20,000 patients.

Overwhelming reception

And things are going well, Maja reports: “The medication bag was well-received on all fronts. By patients, relatives, hospitals and ambulance paramedics alike. The medication bag makes it so easy for patients and anyone assisting them to bring along the medication.”

Morten Dalsgard, CEO of Westpack, keeps a keen eye on the company's projects, and the medication bag has also made an impression on him. He says: “We're very proud of our role in developing and producing the medication bag. We've had an amazingly innovative partnership with the healthcare region's project manager, and are looking forward to the next step in the process, which will be to roll out this simple but ingenious solution to address what is regrettably a serious problem: confusion about personal medicines and medication error. The effect of the medication bag achieved among patients already, and the awards won for innovation and initiative, say it all: Way to go, Westpack!”

The pilot project has not even closed out yet, but there is already an interest in ordering more medication bags.

Denmark's news sites wrote:

6 December 2018
"Medication bag amazes: pilot rolls out ahead of close-out"
dr.dk (Danish Broadcasting Corporation)

8 October 2018
"Trial of 15,000 medication bags for personal medicines management in Central Jutland Region healthcare"
vest.rm.dk (Regional Hospital West Jutland)

27. February 2018
"Small bags to save lives: medication bagged in one and ready-to-go.”
dr.dk (Danish Broadcasting Corporation)

11. March 2018
Free medication bag to save lives"
aoh.dk (City of Herning)

10. January 2018
"New medication bag for personal medicines on the move"
nido.rm.dk (Central Denmark Region healthcare research and education)

6. July 2017
"Danish foundation TrygFonden donates DKK 0.5 million in aid of medication bag"
vest.rm.dk (Regional Hospital West Jutland)

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