Newsroom

Date: 8/25/2010

Robots help Safeguard Prescription Medications

On the inpatient side at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System, a medication carousel receives the order, locates and rotates to the proper medication (which is identified by a bar code) and a light goes on to indicate to the pharmacy technician the proper medication to select and how many are necessary. The carousel points to one specific medication then requires a bar-code scan to confirm that the right order and quantity has been filled and processing is complete.

The prescription medication process has gone hi-tech at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System in order to safeguard patients against misidentification. At both the retail and inpatient pharmacies, robotics are being used to help dispense medications faster and with the highest level of accuracy.

“Our goal is to deliver the right prescription to the right patient each and every time,” said John Gorski, chief operating officer for Community Healthcare System. “The Robotic Prescription Dispensing System and medication carousels serve as an extra security measure in our processes. By utilizing this safer method of prescription filling, we are able to assure a higher level of quality care to our patients.”

In the retail pharmacy, the robotic computer system is able to fill, label and deliver up to 150 prescriptions per hour. The system contains 100 medication dispensing cells that are designed to hold specific medicines. The Scriptpro SP 100™ dispenses tablets and capsules of all shapes and sizes into standard pharmacy vials. The system has a robotic arm that fills vials directly from the dispensing cells, removing the possibility of a drug mix up. The SP 100 also prints and applies the prescription label and delivers uncapped vials for final inspection by the pharmacist. An image of the dispensed medication is also displayed on a computer screen for visual verification.

Bar codes are used throughout the process for accuracy and quality control. Pharmacists oversee the dispensing process from prescription entry to approval of the finished product.

“All medications have descriptions on the outside of the bottle,” said Frank Bieda, manager of the Community Hospital pharmacy. “My patients get peace of mind by verifying their own medication against the picture and written description on the robot produced prescription label.”

“Because of the volume of prescriptions that the robot can process, I am able to spend more time speaking with our patients about their medications and answering their questions,” Bieda said.

This robotic technology is also helping to safeguard patient medications in the hospitals of Community Healthcare System — Community Hospital in Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart. Automated medication carousels, called Omnicell WorkflowRX™ solution, also make the prescription drug dispensing process more accurate and efficient.

Orders are sent by doctors and nurses via computer down to the Central Pharmacy. After the pharmacist checks and verifies the order in the Pharmacy Information System, the order is electronically transmitted to the carousel. The medication carousel receives the order, locates and rotates to the proper medication (which is identified by a bar code) and a light goes on to indicate to the pharmacy technician the proper medication to select and how many are needed to fill the prescription.

“Unlike storage by shelf method, stacked next to each other alphabetically - which is how most pharmacies keep inventory - look-alike, sound-alike drugs can be placed in totally different locations in the carousel,” said Abe Manasrah, M.S., Pharmacy, Business & Informatics director for Community Healthcare System. “The technicians who are filling prescriptions no longer have an opportunity to mix up drugs. The carousel points to one specific medication, then requires a bar-code scan to confirm that the right order and quantity has been filled and complete processing.”

“Bar-code scanning is a safety initiative promoted by national organizations, including the Joint Commission,” Manasrah said. “Bedside bar-code scanning, as with our SoftID technology, is heavily dependent on making sure each medication is bar-coded. Part of our strategy is to utilize all of these automations - inpatient and outpatient - to make sure bar-coding becomes the standard.”

Utilizing robotics to help dispense medications also enables us to track medication use by NDC (National Drug Code) which is required by state Medicaid agencies as well as federal agencies like CMS, Manasrah said. The hospitals of Community Healthcare System continue to be at the forefront in patient safety with the implementation of these systems.