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Home » Business » Management » How Pharmacy Automation can help Prevent Major Dispensing Errors

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How Pharmacy Automation can help Prevent Major Dispensing Errors

Submitted by lflowers
Wed, 30 Jan 2013

Though all pharmacies make an effort to abide by the strictest and most meticulous safety standards, there are unfortunately a number of occasions every year when miscounting—and incorrect dispensing of pills has resulted in serious consequences. Several years ago, ABC News ran a story about an incident in which a patient had died of a stroke after being given the wrong medication at too high of a dose.
Another case of incorrect pill dispensing was recorded in September of 2012 when a woman in charge of a patient with a disability claimed that her dependent had been given far too high a dosage of her medication, resulting in severe illness and side effects.
In 2011, a pharmacy board in Charlotte, NC, conducted a study that revealed that over 400 such errors had occurred in pharmacies over the course of five years. Specific errors included incorrect dosages, medications dispensed to wrong parties, incorrect directions, and miscounting of pills.

Medication Dispensing Systems Help Overcome Human Errors
Implementing Automatic Dispensing Technology (ADS) or pharmacy robots is one essential way to ensure catastrophic mistakes like the above do not happen. An increasing number of pharmacies have begun to implement ADS, considering it to be essential to patient safety and state-of-the-art accuracy.

Robotic Technology Ensures Medications are Correctly Dispensed
According to the North Carolina study, "the most common [pharmacy] error is the substitution of the wrong drug, which…accounts for more than half of the documented errors." By sorting and labeling pills, an ADS system makes sure that the right medication goes to its proper recipient, and at the proper dosage. Also, separated cells and chutes mean that no cross-contamination of medication occurs. The logic is obvious: if there is only one medication being dispensed through one chute at a given time—and only one medication going into a prescription vial—the possibility of the wrong prescription being filled is eliminated.

Technology Increases Patient Safety by Photographing, Capping, and Labeling Prescriptions
The ADS system also photographs and stores images of all prescription vial contents, scrupulously detailing each individual pill. For pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, double-checking the contents of bottles is easy as pulling up an image. Pharmacists can ascertain if the right number of pills are in the right bottle—before the prescription goes out the door.
Knowing that an instant record of prescription fills is available can help mitigate pharmacist—and patient— concerns about dosages and accuracy. The ADS also caps and labels each prescription, so the possibility of medication going to the wrong party is unlikely. So is the chance that labels may be misprinted or erroneously translated into the system. The robotic pharmacy is a revolution for pharmacies everywhere, large and small.

New technology Makes Filling Prescriptions by Hand Obsolete
As is made clear in the above ABC News story and many other cases, the overwhelming majority of pharmacy errors have occurred when prescriptions are sorted, counted, and filled by hand.
A pharmacy technician working in a high-volume pharmacy, with multiple orders to fill in a short time, is far more likely to make a mistake, no matter how meticulous and experienced they are. When that technician is also responsible for counting medications under the pressure of a busy workload, the likelihood of error increases. But the ADS system does this repetitive, laborious work - and more. It saves technicians 50 to 80% of time they'd normally spend preparing and filling orders the traditional way, and fills up to 80% of daily prescription volumes. A reduced workload means more time for pharmacists and staff. This can be used to make sure they are paying the proper attention to crucial details.
With advances in pharmacy robots and technology there is no reason to take a chance on patient safety. Stories like those cited above can be prevented by implementing ADS technology, and letting its vast capabilities ensure that the right medication goes to the right person, at the right dose, every time.


Lisa A. Flowers is a freelance writer and editor who has written extensively for the web, with a particular emphasis on the healthcare and medical industry. Visit Lisa A. Flowers is a freelance writer and editor who has written extensively for the web, with a particular emphasis on the healthcare and medical industry. Visit RxMedic for more information about pharmacy robots.

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