Robots Assume the Role of Pharmacy Staff and Fill out Prescriptions

The UCSF Medical Center is now being supplied medicine by a new pharmacy, which is being run by a few Canadian and Swiss robots, which prevent the pharmacists from handling the medicines directly.

These robots are being housed inside a totally sterile and highly secure environment, where these robots give out injections and oral medications, eliminating contaminations from human touch. Till now, they have processed and prepared over 350,000 dosages without making any errors, thus making the pharmacy staff totally redundant and superfluous.

Organizing all medications into easily accessible bins allows the robot to fill prescriptions rapidly

This system is of great benefit to doctors, pharmacists, nurses and patients. This ground-breaking facility is able to give out 10,000 doses every day. It has raised the standards for automation and robotic systems. A pharmacist’s role is highly challenging with much more to be done than just counting the pills, but sorting, counting and medication management are some of the tasks involved in the pharmacy trade. With human errors such as giving wrong dosages, inadvertent mix-ups, and contamination in pharmacies causing injuries to millions, and over 7000 deaths and loss of around $3.5 billion every year, more and more pharmacies were realizing the benefits of automation, which would save money and lives at the same time.

The new facility has been working partially from October 2010, and was constructed to support the UCSF medical Center along with the two area hospitals and the new children’s, women’s and cancer specialty hospitals, which were to open by 2014. They used the Swisslog robots BoxPicker and PillPick systems, which cost $1.5 million and three RIVA robots from Canada’s Intelligent Hospital Systems costing $1million each. The PillPick Robot is installed at more than 40 places in the US, handling packaging and dispensing medicines, while the BoxPicker Bot manages inventory from 2006 onwards in the Loyola University Medical Center. The RIVA robots are useful where cancer drugs both radioactive and toxic need to be dispensed in intravenous dosages.

The UCSF pharmacy planners wanted to get the best of the automated system in activities such as fixing barcodes on the patient specific bundles on a ring just like what a pharmacist would do. The bundle is then supplied to the hospital for the nurses to use on the patient. The barcodes would help the nurses to track the medications of the patient at the bedside, and as the medicines on the ring are in order and sequence, the nurse could easily follow the order and learn when and how much of each medicine was to be given to the patient. The system is thus totally reliable, predictable and eliminates human error to a great extent. This system when completely online would help doctors to enter the prescription directly into it thus removing the need for paper work and record keeping in the pharmacies and offices.


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