Pharmacy robot streamlines medication dispensing process
The newest member of the pharmacy team fills thousands of prescriptions a day and never makes a single mistake. The staff of the Nash General Hospital pharmacy calls him MACK, which stands for McKesson Automated Cartfill King. To others, “he” is known as The McKesson ROBOT Rx, an automated medication dispensing system which is not only streamlining the dispensing process, but providing another safeguard to ensure patients receive the correct medication.
The key to MACK’s unwavering accuracy? Its utilization of barcode technology.
First, a patient’s wristband is scanned and processed through the Care Mobile handheld device. This ensures that the patient is correctly identified. One of the 2011 National Patient Safety Goals is improving the accuracy of patient identification. When a physician enters the medication order for the patient, it comes to the pharmacy for verification. After the pharmacy verifies the order, it is sent to MACK.
MACK then springs into action, selecting the prepackaged medication and placing it in a patient-labeled envelope to be delivered.
“ MACK reduces errors to zero,” said Mike Lamonds, director of the Nash General Hospital Pharmacy. “This technology represents a significant investment in patient safety by the hospital. It is a remarkable resource to have available.”
MACK is located within a Plexiglas “cage” in the Nash General Hospital pharmacy. Inside the cage are 500 different kinds of pharmaceutical drugs---the most common medications prescribed. When MACK receives the order, an electronic “eye” reads the barcode, and a robotic arm pulls the medication from the shelf. As an additional safeguard, ten percent sample of the medications filled by MACK are checked by the pharmacist.
If the medication is not among the 500 located within MACK’s jurisdiction, the order is sent to a medication carousel, which is rotated to give pharmacy technicians access to the medication. Employees then complete the order.
Nash Health Care is one of 400 pharmacies in the nation to utilize the ROBOT Rx, which increases medication-filling accuracy to 99.9 percent and cuts pharmacist-checking labor by 90 percent. In addition, it lowers expired medication costs by 54 percent, according to information from McKesson.
MACK streamlines the dispensing process, but does not eliminate jobs. While MACK is taking on some roles previously performed by employees, these employees have shifted their scope of duties, which may now include loading medications to be placed within the robotic area, working with the packaging machine, and obtaining medications form the carousel storage area.
“The medication process is very complex and prone to error. The barcode technology provides an additional safety net for our patients” said Mike Lamonds.
Mike Lamonds (above), pharmacy director, poses with MACK.
The pharmacy robot fills thousands of prescriptions a day.
Valerie Pulley (above) of the Nash General Hospital pharmacy, demonstrates how the automated medication dispensing system works.