Telepharmacy Workstation Design and Development
The Telepharmacy Workstation Design and Development (TWD) team has several identities: [a] a capstone/senior design team; [b] a Bison Venture; [c] a partnership with a North Dakota company. The partner/sponsor is Custom Data, Inc., headquartered in Dickinson, North Dakota.
Over the past five years, the NDSU College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Allied Sciences has been studying methods for bringing professional pharmacist services to rural communities. The work has centered on application of modern telecommunications technologies. Through the first five years, work has concentrated on operational and regulatory matters. In mid-2008, the pharmacy research team concluded that the work had matured well enough to warrant a concerted effort to develop a packaged product that could serve as a plug-and-play workstation. Such a workstation would be placed in a rural setting (too small to support a registered professional pharmacist) and would link that locale to a 24/7 pharmacist housed at a central site. Thus was born the TWD team. The hardware partner with the College of Pharmacy is Custom Data, a company founded by an engineering alumnus of NDSU. Custom Data became the project sponsor and partner.
The telepharmacy hardware need coincides well with the objectives of senior-level engineering education. All accredited engineering programs in the United States are required to include a culminating experience wherein the about-to-graduate students demonstrate that they have assimilated the skills and competencies needed in the professional workplace. This attainment is almost universally demonstrated through a comprehensive project. The product need articulated by the College of Pharmacy and Custom Data translates smoothly into senior project terms. The objectives of the project combine the academic and the commercial;
 design a telepharmacy workstation;
 design a production system for serial manufacture of the workstation;
 design a business plan for producing and distributing manufactured workstations.
General specifications for the workstation product include two-way video, two-way audio and two-way document communications. There are also certain communications and data security requirements. Fulfilling the objectives against this general specification requires the skills of engineers in four majors: electrical engineering (camera, audio and input/output technologies); computer engineering (software design); industrial engineering (ergonomics and work organization); manufacturing engineering (product realization and production system design). Thus, the TWD team is comprised of 5 senior engineering students -- 2 electrical, 1 computer, 1 industrial, 1 manufacturing. This project was scheduled for two semesters -- start at the beginning of September 2008, to be completed in May 2009. Each student earns 6 credits of senior project credit that applies directly towards graduation requirements.
The TWD team is also fabricating a prototype workstation during Spring 2009. Project completion and demonstration are schedule for early May 2009.