Things Learned: The Annual RIVA User Group Meeting

Posted on June 27, 2014

Story by Lexie Stovel

Last week, IHS held its annual User Group Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The forum’s goal was to give RIVA users a place to discuss their experiences, and hear from IHS on the latest news and developments for the automation. This year, the meeting was given an overall theme, that of “RIVA as Manufacturing Equipment”.

User Group meeting


Customers from three separate hospitals each presented on this theme, discussing how to maximize RIVA’s production capabilities by creating a shorter term schedule within a long term plan. By thinking about and planning the amount of doses that a hospital needs to make over a period of time, such as a month, while still maintaining the shorter  term goal of what to make on any given day, RIVA users can maximize their utilization of the machine. Niels Erik Hansen, CEO, gave a presentation on maximizing RIVA’s utilization, and CTO Thom Doherty followed with a presentation about the “lessons learned” from manufacturing and industry.  He stated that “people have realized that moving away from manual preparations, where the quality of the product depends on how well people preform a job, and introducing automation to take over those repetitive tasks allows for machine repeatability and accuracy to replace human errors and inaccuracies”. Mr. Doherty says that the process that pharmacies follow is actually quite similar to those seen in industrial manufacturing, and if IHS’ customers understand that, they can see the same benefits as companies in lean manufacturing – if they have similar problems, they can use similar solutions  to achieve success.

After these presentations were over, IHS opened the floor up for discussion. This allowed the users to exchange comments, questions, and concerns with each other and with the staff of IHS, which Ken Stovel, CFO at IHS, thought the customers much appreciated. The customers brought up the difference between knowing that a new hospital is running doses on RIVA and being able to simply tap them on the shoulder to ask questions. When asked what he thought the customers liked best about RIVA, Mr. Stovel said, “The customers really like the technology. They mentioned that many of their fellow workers want to see the unit in action.” Another subject that came up frequently was their appreciation of the noticeable error reduction. There were also concerns shared, one of which was the difficulty of getting information out of the machine. Customers mentioned that they wish RIVA had more user friendly reports that could be generated to give them information, which Mr. Stovel thinks is a reasonable request.

Another thing that Mr. Doherty discussed and that was introduced at the meeting was an important measure used in industrial manufacturing – OEE, or Overall Equipment Efficiency.  He thinks that when this standard is applied with regularity by RIVA users, they will be able to measure their productivity. OEE measures three things – the availability of equipment, the productivity, and the quality. IHS is responsible for availability, by making sure that the system is running, maintained properly, and fixed in a timely manner. Productivity is the responsibility of the user, while the quality is RIVA’s responsibility. When these three are combined, the user is given a composite score, which tells them how effectively they are using the technology. This gives the users a standard form of measurement which they can compare with their peers. If one hospital has a rating of 85, for example, they might ask another with a score of 90 how to achieve better productivity. Because the systems are the same, the biggest change in scores will relate to how people are behaving while using them.

Something that was brought to the attention of the IHS team was the customers’ desire to have an easier way to network with one another. There are many things about working with RIVA that users learn from experience. Users asked about a more efficient way to receive this knowledge, so that if one hospital experiences something, the rest of the network can learn and benefit from it as well. IHS is looking into ways to make knowledge sharing more efficient, and is currently considering something on their customer portal. Mr. Stovel realizes that in the long run this can really benefit IHS, because “this is a group of users who really want to improve their productivity and deep knowledge of RIVA, which can only help in future marketing”.

Tying in both the ideas of networking and OEE, IHS is beginning to analyze the data from a collection of their customer sites, and ask questions about any potentially low numbers – why they had stoppages, why their production rate was slower than it possibly could have been, and other such questions. Mr. Doherty says that these can help narrow down to specific doses, people, and times, helping users manage their operation more effectively. In fact, something that one site was able to discover was that under one operator, a series of failures were  caused by the operator not tightening the needles on the syringes properly. Isolating an issue such as this can help users correct mistakes and raise their productivity.

Overall, the IHS team felt that the meeting was a great success, for both the customers and the IHS team. Mr. Stovel noted that it gave him a chance to meet many of the customers and come to understand how much the users are actually benefitting from their RIVAs. He thinks that “it would be beneficial to have different individuals from IHS attend each year as it would give them an appreciation for the value of the machine and how much the customers benefit from it”. He thought it was interesting to see how excited the rest of the group was when they heard the presentations from the most successful users, and seeing how much the users wanted to learn and improve. Mr. Doherty adds that he heard many positive comments about the meeting both during and afterwards, especially about the open format of the latter part of the meeting.

“People thought it was worthwhile,” he said, “they thought they learned a lot from it, and they were really happy we had put this together because it gave people a forum to just pick the minds of each other and see how they are using RIVA. It is often discussions like that when people say, ‘Why don’t you just do this?’, and, ‘Oh, I’d never thought about that’. There’s a lot of banter back and forth where people are realizing that they are actually part of a larger community where users can learn from each other.”


RIVA is a fully automated IV compounding system developed by Intelligent Hospital Systems and used by hospital pharmacies to automatically and accurately prepare IV syringes and bags.

For more information visit RIVA product page

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