Editorial Feature

What is Pharmacy Automation?

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Pharmacy automation involves the automation of common tasks and processes performed in a pharmacy or other healthcare settings1. For example, the dispensing of medications has traditionally been a time consuming and tedious task performed by pharmacists for several decades.

As a result, some level of pharmacy automation has been utilized since the 1970s, of which involved counting technologies that were used to replace manual counting in an effort to reduce workload and increase efficiency1. In the 1980s and 1990s, the next generation of high-speed machines for counting and bottling were developed, which proved to be easy to use, compact and cost-effective.

As the technology behind automated systems has continued to advance over the past several years, including developments in software, artificial intelligence and machine learning, a variety of solutions for pharmaceutical purposes have been developed.

These automated pharmacy solutions range from simple packaging technologies to enterprise-level perpetual inventory management.

Advantages of Pharmacy Automation

Today, the incorporation of automated services within pharmacies around the world has significantly improved the efficacy and security of storing, administering, filling, packaging and labeling prescription medications1. Due to the clear benefits offered by pharmacy automation, even traditional pharmacies have started to make the switch.

Increased Productivity

Machines outperform the most careful and experienced pharmacists or technicians in terms of speed and accuracy. Pharmacy automation has significantly increased the productivity of the pharmacies by increasing the number of prescriptions filled, which is far greater than that which is accomplished by manual processes.

Reduced Waste

Pharmacy automation eliminates potential medication waste that can occur during the filling and labelling of prescriptions.

Minimized Labor Costs

It is estimated that the average pharmacist or pharmacist technician walks about 8 miles each day in a pharmacy performing various tasks, including filling, packing, labeling and dispensing medications. By automating these processes, companies can reduce labor costs associated with higher staff requirements while also reducing stress in the work environment.

Improved Patient Counseling

As mentioned above, pharmacy automation has been associated with significantly reducing the amount of physical workload on pharmacy staff. As a result, pharmacists are provided with more time that can be used to counsel patients on medication instructions and answer any questions, thereby ultimately improving patient care.

Greater Security and Confidentiality

The potential for human error in the pharmacy can be particularly worrisome when workers are dispensing strictly regulated drugs and controlled substances, such as opiates. For instance, a pharmacy technician can provide more information in a voicemail than what is required, which can ultimately risk the security of the establishment and/or diminish patient confidentiality.

Automated calling programs can serve as a viable and efficient option to verbalize consistent information that has been programmed by the pharmacy. Automated systems can also reduce the possibility of error by requiring specific dispensing information to be input prior to allowing patients access to the medication.

Leading Pharmacy Automation Systems

Several companies, such as Parata Systems, Scriptpro, TCGRx and Rx Safe, have been manufacturing various pharmacy automation systems that can effectively improve various aspects of pharmacy management and patient care.

ATP®2 from TCGRx

This industry leading oral solid automated packager facilitates both unit dose and multi-med packaging with a user-friendly software interface. As the only “closed loop” model currently available on the market, the ATP®2 is also capable of dispensing both canister and non-formulary medications2.

Beacon from TCGRx

The Beacon® inventory management system reduces patient medication errors and inventory carrying costs through the use of barcode scanning from the beginning to the end of filling a script2.

AVF-70TM from TGRx

In addition to automatically counting and filling prescriptions, this device facilitates the direct filling of penicillin and other types of medications without risking the potential occurrence of cross contaminantion during the process2.

RapidPakRXTM from RxSafe

This adherence packaging automation system, which is equipped with 20 “smart” bulk-loaded universal cartridges, can dispense all oral solid medications, such as gel caps, half tabs and new generic medications, without requiring any preliminary calibration to be performed. In fact, this automation system can run a 30-day medical cycle in 10 minutes3.

BlistAssist TM from RxSafe: BlistAssist TM

This advanced blister card packaging system provides faster inspection, as well as improved accuracy, traceability and security of single or multi-med blister cards3.

RxSafe 1800 TM from RxSafe

This automated storage system allows for secure robotic storage and retrieval of pharmaceuticals for retail pharmacy inventory3.

Summary

Pharmacy automation involves the mechanization of processes, of which can include medication dispensing, packaging, labeling, storage and retrieval of medications. Automation systems can help pharmacies streamline the workflow and reduce the risk of errors and improve direct patient-care activities4.

References

  1. “What is Pharmacy Automation” – TCGRx
  2. “The Growing Trend of Pharmacy Automation” – Forbes
  3. “Rx Safe” – Rx Safe
  4. “Pharmacy Automation Market 2018 Global Analysis Opportunities and Forecast to 2023” – MarketWatch

 

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Benedette Cuffari

Written by

Benedette Cuffari

After completing her Bachelor of Science in Toxicology with two minors in Spanish and Chemistry in 2016, Benedette continued her studies to complete her Master of Science in Toxicology in May of 2018. During graduate school, Benedette investigated the dermatotoxicity of mechlorethamine and bendamustine, which are two nitrogen mustard alkylating agents that are currently used in anticancer therapy.

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