Revolutionizing healthcare: the incredible world of pharmacy automated systems
Within the last century, the mortality rate has dropped in the developed world due to advancements in medical care. We’ve developed new techniques, drugs, and equipment to vastly improve patient outcomes and quality of life.
The pharmaceutical industry is constantly creating new drugs. In 2022, over 53 new drugs were approved by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). While this is great for patient care, it means that there is more work for pharmacy staff.
Pharmacy staff members have many duties revolving around medication dispensing, labeling, and packaging. They need to be efficient but also vigilant to ensure patient safety. Not having these is a recipe for disaster! So, more and more pharmacies are looking for pharmacy automation solutions for greater efficiency.
What is Pharmacy Automation?
Pharmacy automation is the automation of pharmacy processes like sorting, counting, packaging, and distributing prescription medications.
Pharmacy automated systems have many purposes, such as improving accuracy and efficiency. Pharmacy automation has been around since the 1960s, with pill counters being used. In the 1980s and 1990s, they introduced high-speed counting and bottling machines.
Over the years, pharmacy automation has advanced due to developments in software and machine learning. There are now many more pharmacy automation solutions for a variety of purposes.
Benefits of Pharmacy Automation
While pharmacy automation systems used to be too expensive for some pharmacies, they have become more affordable. The pharmacy automation market was estimated to be worth $6.16 billion in 2021.
This means that more and more pharmacies are using pharmacy automation systems.
Pharmacy automation systems boost pharmacy efficiency. Machines perform faster than pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. They are also more accurate, so more prescriptions are filled than with manual labor.
Using pharmacy automation systems also reduces medical waste from labeling and filling prescriptions.
There is usually waste when medication expires or becomes contaminated. There is also waste when medication is accidentally overstocked or damaged.
Reduce labor costs
The average pharmacist or technician walks an estimated eight miles a day within the pharmacy, fulfilling various daily tasks. These include dispensing medications, filling, packing, and labeling.
A higher volume of medications and patients can lead to needing more staff, which can increase labor costs. The automation systems lower the number of pharmacists needed. It also decreases the amount of time they need to work.
Improve patient care
Pharmacy automation means that pharmacists and technicians don’t have to do time-consuming work like sorting and packaging. This leaves them with more time to dedicate to patient care.
Being able to talk to the customers more and get a better idea of what they need leads to improved patient outcomes.
There is improved patient safety with pharmacy automation. This is because there’s always a chance for human error in pharmacy. This is especially true when it comes to dispensing controlled substances and highly regulated drugs.
Having machines ensures that controlled substances are dispensed at the right unit dose for the patient. Dispensing the wrong dosage or the wrong quantity can be detrimental to a patient’s health.
These machines also improve safety when compounding medications. They eliminate the risk of contaminating the compounds or using the wrong quantities.
Improve confidentially and data protection
Pharmacy automation software will keep and store patient data according to industry regulations. There is also less chance of drugs being misplaced or abused, as the system keeps track of prescriptions.
It will also ensure that the pharmacy is complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It will also keep them compliant with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA).
Types of Pharmacy Automation
Pharmacy automation solutions can conjure up images of robots taking on physical tasks. While this is a part of it, there’s so much more to it than that. Pharmacy automation is very common and starts from placing the order for medication.
Storing and dispensing medications is a big part of daily operations in a pharmacy. Each drug is handled almost ten times before it ends up in the patient’s hands. This means that there are lots of opportunities for contamination and errors.
If the medications are stored incorrectly, they may not work anymore. The medications may be left past their expiration date or dispensed in the wrong amount. Pharmacy automation removes the possibility of these errors.
Bulk medication is placed in canisters that are then placed in storage units. Each canister has a barcode that corresponds with a particular type of drug. The storage units have matching bar codes, and the machines keep track of the expiration dates.
Typically, pharmacies receive their medications in bulk before storing and distributing them. In some cases, the patient might require a treatment that calls for creating compounds. These compounds are created by combining two or more drugs into one. They can also be made by changing the ingredients or form of medication.
There are strict regulations to follow when it comes to compounding to avoid any human error that might lead to contamination. Now, most pharmacies use a pharmacy automation solution so that the compounds are mixed in a sterile environment. The recipe or the compound will still be made by a professional such as a pharmacist.
The pharmacists create and input the recipe into the machine. The machine then collects the required medications from the bulk canisters and mixes them. After this, the compounds are sent to the packaging machine, which separates them into the right doses before packing.
Packaging and labeling
Pharmacy automation machines that dispense can typically also package and label the medications. Some pharmacies prefer to have two separate machines that do this.
The dispensed medication can then be packaged into boxes. It can also be packaged in sachets, blister packs, bottles, vials, and other packaging types. The labeling machine then prints a label with industrial standards. These labels usually have the medicine name, patient’s name, usage instructions, and dosage.
A pharmacy automation system can also keep track of all records and data in the pharmacy. The software keeps track of the pharmacy inventory as well as patient information.
A pharmacy automation solution keeps track of the inventory and indicate when stock is running low. The machine can also be set to order new medication automatically when stock runs low.
As mentioned, the system keeps track of the expiration date of all medications. The system also keeps track of patient information and data, as well as prescription data.
This system allows the patient or pharmacist to check the inventory for the relevant medication. It also keeps track of what medication the patient has previously taken without manual input.
What is the most common form of pharmacy automation solutions?
Pill counters are most commonly used in pharmacies across the country. It reduces the chances of mistakes occurring.
Which automated dispensing systems are popular in pharmacies and hospitals?
The most popular automated dispensing cabinets are Omnicell, Pyxis, Capsa, AcuDuse and ROBOT-Rx.
A pharmacy automation system can be invaluable for a pharmacy in basically every area. Investing in a pharmacy automation system can improve pharmacy inventory management. It can also increase efficiency. It also makes the workflow easier, reduces labor costs, and and improve patient outcomes.