Hospitals in the US are starting to use pharmacy robots designed to eliminate life-threatening medication errors, says Loyola University Hospital.
The hospital said it is the first in the Midwest to use the PillPick, a two-armed robot that places single doses of medication in small plastic bags marked with a bar code to identify the drug.
A nurse can scan the bar code on the medication bag along with the bar code on the patient's wristband.
The computer will sound an alert and a pop-up warning will appear if it is the wrong drug or the wrong dose.
The 1.5 million dollar robot is manufactured by SwissLog Healthcare Solutions.
"We looked at five systems, and this one was the most innovative," said Richard Ricker, administrative director of the pharmacy department, Loyola.
The new system is 28 feet long and 13 feet wide. At the front end, a robot arm packages medications in single-dose bags. At the back end, a patient's medication bags are arranged in order of administration and attached to a plastic ring.
A card attached to the ring specifies each drug, along with important patient information.
The robot packages 3,200 medications, including tablets, capsules, vials, ampules and suppositories. It works around the clock.
Loyola said the robot is designed to eliminate the type of serious human error involving actor Dennis Quaid's twins at a California hospital last year.
The infants were supposed to receive 10 units per millimeter of the blood thinner heparin. Instead they received 10,000 units.
A pharmacy technician had mistakenly placed the vials with different dosages in the same drawer. Loyola said another common mistake is to mix up drugs with similar spellings.
The robot will not eliminate pharmacy jobs. Instead, it will free up pharmacists so they can spend more time monitoring drug therapy and working with patients, nurses and doctors.
"By improving efficiencies, our robot will allow pharmacists to be deployed to nursing units for better patient care," said Gwen Volpe, RPh., automation project manager.