The Mechanical Pharmacy

assorted-capsulesEvery year, approximately 30 million dispensing errors occur at outpatient pharmacies in the U.S., says the National Patient Safety Foundation. Mix-ups can occur if two drugs may have similar names or the prescribing physician’s handwriting is unclear. The right pill might be given, but at the wrong dosage. Pharmacy staff may be overworked or distracted.

Automating certain pharmacy functions may help some pharmacies improve efficiency and patient safety. Companies such as Talyst, Omnicell, Advanced Pharmacy and McKesson provide a variety of services to automate workflow, medication labeling and dispensing, and more. A sampling of solutions is listed below:

Pharmacy management software offers the ability to automate critical tasks. One such system, WorkflowRx by Omnicell, automates such functions as ordering, receiving, stocking and picking. The system allows clinicians to capture expiration dates and lot numbers, and it tracks transactions and inventory. OmniCell also markets order management software.

Automated medication dispensing: These machines allow medications to be dispensed and packaged at the pharmacy or at a healthcare facility. They select the medication for the technician, potentially reducing the chance of human error. These systems are designed to save time and money by tracking inventory, thereby reducing the number of pharmacy deliveries required to the facility. Some automated medication dispensers, such as the InSiteRx system by Talyst, can hold hundreds of different medications.

Medication dispensers may be password-protected to limit access by unauthorized parties. Some, like the AP Passport system from Advanced Pharmacy, may be monitored and prescriptions may be filled remotely by an off-site support team.

Bar code medication packaging: In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration McKesson offers a high-speed bar-code packager that can be integrated with the company’s ROBOT-Rx medication dispensing system.

We’ve listed a few areas in which pharmacy operations can be automated. What are some other technological tools that pharmacies can use to improve efficiency and boost patient safety?

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