Automated Dispensing

Introduction Automated dispensing is a system being implemented in today’s pharmacy’s nation wide. It involves the use of machines pre stocked with drugs that are programmed to automatically dispense physicians orders upon request. Changing roles With technology advancing, the role of both the pharmacy technician and the pharmacist is taking a swing toward making the dispensary a better work environment. Automatic dispensing systems are taking over the dispensing issues of the pharmacy and technicians fear they will take over their job completely.

The duties of a pharmacy technician are counting pills and placing them in the proper vials with lids and applying the appropriate labels to assist the pharmacist in anyway possible so they can spend more time with patients. Maybe in the smaller pharmacies some technicians will lose their job, but in the busier and bigger pharmacies, technicians will become an asset. The machines can’t stock themselves. Someone needs to keep the cabinets well stocked and all the products will have to be checked for expiry dates on a regular basis.

Everyday pharmacy supplies have to be maintained, ordering and receiving of products has to be looked after, and the filing of the prescriptions and sales records has to be filed on a daily basis. These jobs will always be available and machines will never replace the technician completely because even when you think there is nothing to do, there is always something. Along with the role of the pharmacy technician changing, the role of the pharmacist is taking a turn towards better patient care.

In some pharmacies the pharmacist does all the dispensing and there are no technicians involved, but with the automated dispensing system performing these duties, pharmacists will be inclined to spend more time with patients to discuss their medications with them and to monitor their drug therapy in order to provide optimal pharmaceutical care. By spending more time with patients and getting to know them, maybe pharmacists could pick up on some of the compliance issues that are arising.

In a lot of cases, patients aren’t coming at the proper time for their blood pressure pills, or they are buying a box of test strips every four months which means they aren’t using their medications properly; if pharmacists had enough time to spend a few minutes with all patients, maybe this could be picked up on and resolved before the patients condition worsens. Advantages Automated dispensing has many advantages as well as drawbacks. Some of the advantages include improved efficiency, enhanced safety, and improved use of space.

(1) When a prescription is dropped off at the drop off window, either a pharmacist or a pharmacy technician must input the order into a computer to generate a label. Then they have to walk to the stock area and pick the right drug and strength and bring it back to the counter area, where it is counted and placed in a vial that is capped and labelled. The next step is to perform a 7-point check to verify the patient, the doctor, the drug and strength, the amount dispensed and remaining, the directions for use and the drug identification number(DIN) of the drug.

The pharmacist then does a double check on all information and bags it before handing it to the cashier to give to the patient. With automated dispensing systems, the order is entered into a pharmacy computer by the pharmacist, where it is transmitted to the automated dispensary, which picks the drug by bar code identification, label it and dispenses the finished product back to the pharmacist to verify and pass on to the patient. It is more effective and can generate orders 10 times faster then the average technician. Automated dispensing enhances safety to both the patients and to the work environment.

When manually selecting a bottle, it is very easy to select the wrong one especially with different strengths such as antibiotic liquids like amoxil or biaxin. The use of automated picking by bar code identification can reduce the amount of picking errors. In a busy pharmacy, there are usually at least 2-3 technicians filling and running around to the shelves for stock bottles in the little area they have and an accident is bound to happen. Whether is be bumping into someone, tripping on a phone cord, or tripping over boxes of stock lying around on the floor because there was no time to put it away.

The work environment will be more relaxed and quieter Manual dispensing requires most of the space to be taken up with about 7-8 shelves of stock bottles, not to mention the vials, lids, bottles, and all the other dispensing supplies needed for day to day operation. In smaller pharmacies automated dispensing systems could free up some of the space because everything would be stored inside the cabinet. Disadvantages Some of the drawbacks include order entry errors, system failure, machine defects, cost, and product defects. (2) Pharmacists are humans, and believe it or not, humans make mistakes.

If they miscalculate a dose or accidentally enter the wrong order into the system, guess what? The computer is not going to pick it up. The brains of the system is just going to go and pick the drug that was entered and stick the label on the bottle and dispenses it to the pharmacist for distribution. And what happens if we become so dependent on these systems and begin to think they will never make a mistake and fail to double check what comes out? The customer gets the wrong drug, and if its something like warfarin, where a mg can mean a lot, they’ll know soon enough.

No machine will run forever without shorting out. Be it a power outage or a manufacturer defect, machines are bound to shut down from time to time. If the pharmacy doesn’t have some sort of back up system installed to manually keep tract of inventory and the system crashes, all the data will be lost. If the dispensary is not equipped for additional manual operation in case there is a shortage, then in the time it takes to get the problem resolved, the pharmacist would have to turn patients away. Especially if technical support has to be contacted, that could take hours, sometimes even days.

Most pharmacies are given a budget which limits their expenditures on a yearly basis. In order for smaller independent pharmacies to invest in an automated dispensing system, someone or something has to take a loss. It could be a cut in someone’s hours, even better with a machine doing all the work, why even keep that person on, they could use their wages to lease the machine. Even with the cost of the machine, most pharmacies would have to renovate their store to even accommodate the system, which could include rewiring.

Product defects include damaged labels and bar codes, and the shape and size of the bottles supplied by manufacturers. I would assume that with the way some of the drugs are stored in the cabinets, that only certain sizes and shapes can be stocked. The uses of automated dispensing Automated dispensing is becoming more and more popular as people tend to trust computers more then they trust themselves. They are used in retail pharmacies and hospital pharmacies and can be centralized or decentralized systems. Centralized pharmacies are run from a specific location within the hospital, whereas decentralized pharmacies are run from each ward.

(3) They are used to reduce errors in dispensing, obtain better inventory management, produce efficient utilization of staff, turn the atmosphere into a more relaxed setting within the dispensary, and to free up pharmacists so they can provide optimal pharmaceutical care to patients. Conclusion According to Kenneth Baker, a professor and the head of the department of pharmacy care systems, “Automated dispensing systems will not replace the human pharmacist. The drug distribution process must remain under the control of the pharmacist.

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians must be trained in their use and capabilities”. (3) This could mean that future pharmacy technician training courses will probably focus on more pharmacology and get more into detail about the different drugs available and how they work on the body to prepare technicians for future certification exams. Technicians will have to be trained on how to troubleshoot and improve on their various computer skills. While many people fear the changing role in the pharmacy industry because of automated dispensing, the advantages outweigh the drawbacks.

If staff is properly trained on how to use these systems many of the errors that occur can be avoided. We still have to double check all orders. With the proper training, every pharmacy should have no problem running an automated dispensing system so that patients can get the counselling they need to take better care of themselves. Bibliography 1. Fitzgerald, Ray (2004) Automated Dispensing. Retrieved October 24, 2006 from the world wide web: http://www. pjonline. com/pdf/hp/200403/hp_200403_automateddispensing02. pdf 2. Hong, Lona (2000) Pharmacy Automation. Retrieved October 24, 2006 from the world wide web: http://www.

nm-pharmacy. com/body_student_article_6. htm 3. Emmons, Mitch (1997) Automation part of auburn pharmacy instruction. Retrieved October 13, 2006 from the world wide web: http://www. auburn. edu/adminstration/univrel/news/archive/2_97news/2_97pharmacy.

html 4. Hagen, Chris (1997) Bayview news. Retrieved October 24, 2006 from the world wide web: http://www. hoskinsbayview. org/opa/baynews/fall1997/pyxis. html 5. Fitzgerald, Ray (2005) Automated Dispensing. Retrieved October 24, 2006 from the world wide web: http://www. pjonline. com/pdf/papers/pj_20050618_automateddispensing. pdf.

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