Thursday, December 18, 2008

Robotic Pharmacists – Drug Dispensing Made Easy

Pharmacists have a tough job, aside from reading illegible prescriptions, and ensuring that only the right pharmaceutical drugs are dispensed, they have to constantly run around stockrooms looking for drugs. However, some pharmacies may have already found a solution in the form of robotic pharmacists.

Recently, a new set of robotic dispensers, christened as “robodispensers,” were introduced at Leicester's hospitals' pharmacies. These robots are big machines, about eight meters in size, and are costly too, with each piece costing about US$ 463,530.

The New Age Dispensers

The new age pharmacists seem to be clever and efficient machines, as they can tirelessly work round the clock and not need even a cat's nap. They can accurately locate and dispense 700 medicines a day - 60 per hour, in addition to storing 25,000 packs of medicines.

When a pharmacy technician asks the robots to fetch a pack of a particular pharmaceutical – patent or a generic drug, the on-board computer swings into action, calculating where the medicines are stocked. Next, the picking head gets to right spot, and using a suction arm pulls the pack from the shelf. After which the pack find its way onto a conveyor belt and the drugs are delivered to the technician.

Bulky and pricey they may be, however they have a number of advantages over human pharmacists. For instance, they can save many pharmacists the pain of rushing about stockrooms in search of medicines, and they can better focus on ensuring that the right medicines are dispensed. Also, these robotic dispensers are highly accurate because rely on the barcodes on the prescription drugs packs to identify medicines, thus reducing errors. And, a reduced turnaround time is yet another benefit.

Perhaps, reduced costs and widespread installations of such machines will take care of the woes of pharmacy technicians around the world.

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