Automation and robotics have transformed the complete scenario in several industrial verticals. Health and medical services are no exception when we look at the tremendous growth and rejuvenated potential of services that could be transformed in healthcare.

Medical dispensing is one such area of work that has always been a part of the healthcare service providers’ profession.

After diagnosing the patient’s medical history, doctors advise the right dosage of oral and sometimes IV medications to the patients. The patients or caregivers then procure these from the pharmacy. Needless to say, manual operations in medicine dispensing operations have a high chance of human errors. According to the Institute of Medicine, in the US alone, approximately 7,000 deaths each year are attributed to medication errors, and measurable medication errors cost the US economy USD 20 billion!

At this point comes the revolutionary advantages of robotic pharmacy. A robotic pharmacy leverages robots and automation to perform all the repetitive tasks – right from filling the patient prescriptions to organizing the medications and delivering the same to correct patients via a recognition ‘coded bar’.

According to BCC Research, the global pharmacy automation market was valued at $3.5 billion in 2015 and will increase to $5.5 billion in 2021. There must be several reasons behind the unquestionable popularity of robotic pharmacy – let’s take a look at how it is giving cutting-edge facilities to the evolving pharmacy industry-

Why is it a step ahead of traditional medical dispensing?

The traditional pharmaceutical practices involve manually categorizing medicines, making dosages, and organizing medicines as per the needs of the patients. It is found that pharmacists spend a lot of time in doing these tasks. With the increasing acceptance for robotic pharmacy in the field of medical dispensing, robots and automation is leveraged to do all these activities such as mixing, categorizing, and sealing of medicines with least human intervention.

Here are some of the many benefits of this –

  • Enhanced efficiency

Unlike a regular human pharmacist, a pharmacy robot can fill and organize a large number of medicines without the need for any human intervention and without any errors. Apart from increasing the efficiency of operations, this also frees up the time of the pharmacists to do more value-added tasks.

  • Error-free environment for medical dispending

With robots, the scope of human errors comes down to five in one lakh prescriptions! In the words ofRita Jew, director of the UCSF hospital pharmacy at Mission Bay.“Once you’ve programmed the robot to do the right thing, it’ll always do the same thing over and over again, without errors, unless humans introduce those errors along the way.”

  • Effectiveness in pharmaceutical operations

One of the problems with manual operations of pharmacy is that the pharmacists end up suggesting medicine dosage and filling the necessary patient details on their prescriptions on the insistence of patients. This could lead to not only serious health issues but also compliance and regulatory problems.

  • Security

In a robotic pharmacy, the medications are securely stored in dispensing machines. With tight access controls, these machines can be operated only by people who have the required access control. With such tight security, the chances of medicine theft or error reduce dramatically. The machine’s software does the tracking of all the dispensing leading to complete tracking and transparency.

  • Reduction in ‘waiting time’ for patients

A robotic medicine dispensing machine can fill thousands of prescriptions per hour as against a few in case of manual operations. This can significantly reduce the waiting time for patients leading to higher patient satisfaction.

  • Germ-free and secure environment

Lots of diseases occur because of infections related to germ exposure and mishandling of prescribed drugs. A robotic pharmacy handles this issue by performing in a sterile environment.

After witnessing a significant shift from manual processes, the pharmacy industry has revived its major operations by including automation and robots. Automation experts claim that the trend is here to stay.

With automation, hospitals and pharmacies can increase their efficiencies, increase their prescription filling rates, improve counting accuracy, reduce medication errors, increase safety, ensure adherence to medical doses, optimize their supply chains, and avoid supply delays and stock outages. It can also help them reduce stock-holding and wastages and reduce costs as they don’t need to hire extra staff to handle the extra load at peak times. The benefits are clear. It will be worthwhile to see how the smart hospitals of the future adopt this growing trend.