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  • Robotic dispensing in hospitals

    I read an article about a new 3 armed "robotic pharmacist" at a hospital in Peterborough and just wondered how hospital pharmacists view the arrival of robotic dispensing. On the face of it, it looks like a good thing (speeding up dispensing, more time on wards) but what about staff ? It would be good to hear what pharmacists' opinions are of these robots. Does anyone work in a hospital with dispensing robots ??
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  • #2
    Re: Robotic dispensing in hospitals

    they are not only in hospitals! some busy pharmacies installed robots to do the dispensing, typical for those doing more than 25000 items/month.
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    • #3
      Re: Robotic dispensing in hospitals

      Get used to robots. They are getting better and work 24 hours a day for less than the cost of a technician for 40 hours a week.
      http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Hmbyj0XFUhA

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      • #4
        Re: Robotic dispensing in hospitals

        Does anyone have experience of a dispensing robot? How do they handle split packs, or do you just end up with a shelf full of part packs??

        Approx how many items an hour can they pick??

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        • #5
          Re: Robotic dispensing in hospitals

          The robots are really just larger versions of the machines which dispense sweets crisps, drinks etc. They will only select a product as a whole pack, any adjustments have to be done manually. Not rocket science really.
          johnep

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          • #6
            Re: Robotic dispensing in hospitals

            Is there another, smaller robot who checks off the orders, and re-stocks this cutting-edge "crisp dispenser"? If stock is wrongly placed, who is responsible? as it would appear the wrong product will always be dispensed until the error is (manually) rectified....Just a thought..
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            • #7
              Re: Robotic dispensing in hospitals

              When I did my cross sector in hospital the robot had a bar-code reader and would use this both to put away stock and get it out again...I'm not sure what happened about part-packs, I think in hospital it is generally acceptable to give out the nearest full pack for most things (but please correct me if I am wrong as I only spent 2 weeks in hosp). I don't think I saw it make any mistakes either - but maybe I just didn't watch it long enough

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              • #8
                Re: Robotic dispensing in hospitals

                Yes the more expensive versions will sort from a tote box just emptied into hopper. But not Gaviscon or Lactulose.
                johnep

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                • #9
                  Re: Robotic dispensing in hospitals

                  We have had a robot for a couple of years now and mostly it is a positive addition. However:
                  When it breaks (which it does frequently) it causes chaos as only a limited number of people know how to fix it.
                  It has de-skilled a number of dispensary staff who now appear not to be able to count for items not being dispensed as op's.
                  It appears to have slowed down the 'booking in' process and many items are left in boxes waiting to be put away in the robot.

                  They also require a complete re-fit of the dispensary in order to fit them in!
                  (which is not necessarily a bad thing)

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                  • #10
                    Re: Robotic dispensing in hospitals

                    I have only seen one of these working ever and was most impressed with it, however, the "robot manager" (thats a title i have used) was saying it was good whilst it worked. They had two robots side by side so if one broke down the other could take over but.... the week before on a friday one broke down at 1500h the other 10 minutes later so now they had stock in the robot which is apparently stored according to size shape and weight and not alphabetically so trying to find items was an absolute logistical nightmare.
                    The only way they got round it was that they had big mental health dispensing for theie trust so some of the medication was available as part packs consequently they dispensed for 7 days instead of the 28.
                    Trying to get an engineer at best of times is difficult, trying to get one at 1600h on a Friday was next to impossible.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Robotic dispensing in hospitals

                      Also a problem if the electricity supply fails.
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                      • #12
                        Re: Robotic dispensing in hospitals

                        Originally posted by Fleegle View Post
                        the wrong product will always be dispensed until the error is (manually) rectified....Just a thought..
                        .... always been a problem with wholesalers, this....
                        ....just my opinion

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                        • #13
                          Re: Robotic dispensing in hospitals

                          Our robot is set to go live sometime in March I believe, they're currently building it and the new dispensary on the main concourse to accomodate it is finished.

                          I've read all I can about it, it's a Rowa speedcase with 2 seperate sections and while the technology is quite impressive I do believe it'll be a bit of a bumpy start, I just hope the inevitable teething issues aren't too painful.

                          I can't remember the exact numbers right now but I believe it was over 70% of our lines will be dispensed by the robot, the remainder are heavy/large/awkward items that the robot cannot handle. The split pack issue is handled by returning any unused stock into the machine and specifying the quantity remaining in the pack, the location of the part pack is stored and the robot will attempt to dispense from it from then on.

                          It all feeds onto a conveyor belt, sorted and eventually the drugs come down a spiral chute into a waiting tray next to the technician. Apparently it should be quicker although I'm not sure how 2 robotic arms can beat a team of 4-5 technicians, I get the feeling there's definitely going to be some frustrating queueing going on.

                          The new dispensary, while highly convenient for patients and a definite improvement on the current situation (patients getting lost searching the basement for the dispensary) is small, even compared to our current location. It seems they expect the robot to remove the need to have lots of people moving around, while I expect this will be true to an extent we still have a decent amount of lines that will be needing dispensed manually not to mention the usual back and forward by techs correcting labelling errors, querying with pharmacists etc.

                          I'm sure it'll work out, I just get the feeling it wont be the revolutionary change that we're sometimes told it will be - just think of it as a very tightly packed shelve with a robotic arm inside, there's not much to it and I suspect the same issues which hurt efficiency in our current dispensary (not enough space, not enough computers, not enough time) will exist in the new one.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Robotic dispensing in hospitals

                            Originally posted by Grandy View Post
                            I have only seen one of these working ever and was most impressed with it, however, the "robot manager" (thats a title i have used) was saying it was good whilst it worked. They had two robots side by side so if one broke down the other could take over but.... the week before on a friday one broke down at 1500h the other 10 minutes later so now they had stock in the robot which is apparently stored according to size shape and weight and not alphabetically so trying to find items was an absolute logistical nightmare.
                            The only way they got round it was that they had big mental health dispensing for theie trust so some of the medication was available as part packs consequently they dispensed for 7 days instead of the 28.
                            Trying to get an engineer at best of times is difficult, trying to get one at 1600h on a Friday was next to impossible.
                            I've only got the companies promotional video to base this on but the issue of breakdown/power failure was addressed - there's a laptop by the door to the machine, you can query the location of an item to enter the machine and pick it manually and update the stock level accordingly. Quite how well this will work in a busy hospital dispensary I'm not sure, the items are tightly packed and accidentally moving the wrong item will likely cause problems not to mention there isn't much room inside for a person.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Robotic dispensing in hospitals

                              i have worked in community and hospital bith with 2 different robots. The community one could take part packs the hospital one doesnt. The hospital one seems much better, breaks downa whole lot less. With the part packs you needed someone manually entering the quantity and expiry dates of each part pack - yet the display didnt say what the quantiy was in the part pack. So you could order a split pack of say quetiapine and there only be 1 tablet inside!!!

                              In the hospital most packs dispensed are original container sizes so its not really an issue. There is one full wall of part packs but its things like antibiotics you would split anyways.

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