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Sanford Pharmacy

New technology improving patient safety

New robot improves pharmacy's efficiency while maintaining safety

The Sanford retail pharmacy is still a whirl of activity. That much hasn't changed.

One thing has been different since early February, though. A new robot now fills 50 percent of the prescriptions in the pharmacy, freeing up pharmacy staff members to focus on other parts of their jobs like medication therapy management.

"That is extremely significant," said Kevin House, pharmacy supervisor.

The robot, affectionately known as ARTY—for Automed's Robotic Technology by Yuyama' in the pharmacy, has a footprint of only 3 feet by 10 feet and sits conveniently next to the pharmacists' work station. The innovative machine can hold up to 220 different medications. It labels the bottles, counts the pills, drops them in the containers and leaves everything ready for double checking by a pharmacist. The new technology also provides a picture of the original prescription and the actual pill being dispensed as an added safety measure.

Because ARTY has two robotic arms that work independently, cross-contamination by residue from different medications doesn't occur.

Since Sanford Health began retail pharmacy operations in 1996, it has seen its business increase annually. The robot eases the workload for everyone in the department, and ultimately, that leads to shorter wait times for the pharmacy's customers.

'"That's the whole point," House said. "ARTY will allow us to do more prescriptions and in a shorter amount of time."

Handheld wireless scanners

Handheld wireless scanners were installed at Sanford Health as part of a patient safety initiative. Nurses use the wireless devices to scan medication barcodes and patient bracelets to assure the correct medication and dose is administered. By administering and tracking medications digitally, the possibility of errors is minimized.

If a medication code doesn't correspond with the patient's bracelet barcode, the nurse is alerted immediately. The system also alerts the user if medication has already been given or if the dose is incorrect.

During the recent installation of a pharmacy robot at Sanford Health, all medication was packaged by dose and labeled with barcodes. The scanners and the robot are part of an integrated system synchronizing communication between the pharmacy, physicians and nurses.

AccuDose medicine cabinets

A newly installed system automating medication distribution and storage not only adds security but also adds additional checks to be sure the right patient is getting the right medication. Medication is no longer stored in a cabinet, but rather in locked drawers accessible only to appropriate medical staff.

Fifteen AccuDose medicine cabinets were installed in June 2005. Fifteen nursing units have one cabinet each that holds many medications for patients on that floor.

When a nurse enters ID and PIN numbers on the touch screen, patient names are displayed. The nurse selects a patient and the medication to be administered. The computer identifies and unlocks the drawer in which the medication is located.

Robot Rx

Sanford Pharmacy recently installed Robot-Rx, a centralized drug distribution system that automates storage, retrieval and dispensing of inpatient medications.

The system works via a robotic arm operating on vertical and horizontal rails that retrieves medications and deposits them into patient-specific dispensers. The system uses bar codes to verify, retrieve and track medications dispensed to patients.

Because medication bar coding is done with a machine and the robot places and recalls medications when orders are filled, there is little room for human error, increasing the safety of medication distribution.

ROBOT-Rx can retrieve a medication in less than three seconds and can fill 700 doses per hour.

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