New Robot Prepares Hospital Patient Medications at Strong

Pharmacy Robot Improves Efficiency, Enhances Accuracy in Dispensing Drugs for Hospital Inpatients

June 07, 1999

A new robot in the Pharmacy Department at Strong Memorial Hospital is storing and dispensing drugs for patients in the hospital. ROBOT-RxTM relies on bar-code technology to accurately identify, count, and package unit-dose medications for delivery to patients in the hospital, once ordered by doctors, and reviewed and typed into the computer by pharmacists,.

Strong pioneered pharmacy automation locally last winter by installing a robot in its outpatient pharmacy to count pills and fill and label vials. The new robot similarly automates dispensing of inpatient medicines with accuracy and speed. "Most importantly, it frees pharmacists from routine tasks so they can play a more active role on the patient-care team," said Thomas E. O'Brien, Pharm.D., director of Pharmacy for Strong Health.

ROBOT-RxTM is a centralized drug distribution system that automates the storage, dispensing, return, restocking and crediting of unit-dose, bar-coded inpatient medications. A robotic arm operates on vertical and horizontal rails and is programmed to retrieve medications and deposit them into patient-specific boxes called cassettes. The system can stock 40,000 doses of 771 types of medications. At Strong, it dispenses about 6,000 to 7,000 doses each day. "This technology allows us to maintain high quality care and improve our efficiency and services," O'Brien added.

In addition, automated medication dispensing can be intertwined with other computerized patient information systems to assure that orders are filled and administered properly. "Robot Rx is a critical step toward our goal of a seamless integration of all processes for medication use, with a primary focus on patient safety and improved outcomes," said David F. Webster, supervising pharmacist at Strong. "Using bar-code technology, this system will integrate pharmacy information with automated nursing medication administration records for accuracy and improved patient care."

McKesson Automated Healthcare of Pittsburgh manufactures ROBOT-Rx. It is "widely recognized for its accuracy in the prevention of medications errors," the company reports. It is used in more than 130 hospitals and health systems across the country and has dispensed more than 45 million doses to date without an error.

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