MIT Alumni Created Drug Safety Technology
The crux of Gauti Reynisson’s work is based on one statistic: Approximately 20 percent of drugs administered in hospitals are given in error.
Armed with that sobering fact, Reynisson began working toward medication safety in his native country, the Netherlands, in 2000. But as years passed without significant progress, Reynisson says he and his business partner Ivar Helgason grew frustrated. “We quit our jobs, [we] got tired of selling stuff that doesn’t work to hospitals, and went back to school,” Reynisson remembers.
That school was MIT, and it was there that Reynisson and Helgason built the prototype for MedEye, a system that they believe could do away with drug errors. “We came upon the idea of using computer vision to basically create a second nurse that could double check that you have the right medications, cross check it with the hospital information system, with the individual patient records, and thereby get verification that those are the right medications,” Reynisson explains.
MedEye works by placing each drug stocked in a hospital’s pharmacy into the machine. Then, it takes detailed pictures of the drug to account for its size, shape, inscriptions, and other defining details, filing that data away into its “drug library.” Once that information has been recorded, nurses place the drugs they plan to give to their patient into the machine, which then scans the pills to ensure it fits the medication and dosage requirements of the patient. If the drugs don’t match, the nurse is alerted and able to avoid distributing the wrong medicine.
MedEye is already being used at a hospital in the Netherlands, and the company is planning to expand first into Germany and the United Kingdom before eventually coming to the United States. Reynisson says he hopes MedEye will eventually reach a point that any hospital interested in its technology is able to use it. “[Many] medications are given without any checking,” he says. “This is causing a problem for the patients, getting the wrong medication, but also causing a lot of stress and headache for the nurses, in that they realize that they are in a position to cause serious harm to the patient.”
Technology like MedEye is so important, he says, because of the complexity of the prescription and drug administration process. “In many of these cases, patients are getting medications that they were supposed to be getting yesterday or based on old information, but it’s not the correct medication for now and it’s not optimal for the patient’s therapy,” he says. “It’s not like all of these errors mean patients have serious damage or is somehow injured; the vast majority of the errors is just delaying therapy for the patient or [giving] suboptimal therapy for the patient.”
Still, one in five drugs being given incorrectly is a huge number, and Reynisson says he’s optimistic that MedEye can make a dent in that figure. “We want to take preventable errors in this process, and just stop them,” he says. “Preventable means we can stop it, so that’s what MedEye is doing.”