Already on the cutting edge of science, the University of California at San Francisco now packages medications for its patients by delegating the task to a family of giant robots. Believed to be the most comprehensive automated pharmacy in the nation, the robots executed over 350,000 perfect orders during the program’s recent phase in.
Throughout the day, doctors and pharmacists write prescriptions for the hospital’s nearly 1,000 patients; these slips get sent down to the pharmacy, where robotic arms read barcodes on drawers containing bulk pills. The robots easily pick out the customized amount of medication each patient needs, and deliver each dose in a sealed and labeled plastic envelope, all doses for the same patient attached together on one thin ring.
The robots work away in a sterilized room, making the lives of human pharmacists safer and at the same time more rewarding. The robots cut out the mechanical work trained pharmacists usually need to devote a large amount of their time to, and by measuring doses and packaging medication, the robots allows trained practitioners to devote more of their time to the good stuff: patient care.
In addition to freeing up time for pharmacists and nurses to do what they were trained to do, having robots do the grunt work has some added advantages. Some medications are toxic to the touch for those who don’t need them – such as chemotherapy drugs. The robots safely measure out doses of these liquids as well as fill IV bags, giving employees a chance to avoid contact with the toxic substances.
Perhaps most importantly though, the robots eliminate human error. Once medication is prescribed, the robotic arm delivers the assigned pills coherently, bound together on the same ring for one patient – all doses for a 12 hour period to be found in one location. Nurses then scan the medication to assure accuracy before administering it to the patient. As you can see, humans are still an integral part of the equation, but by taking out the tedious and meticulous task of finding and measuring pills, trained professionals can direct their skills to all other aspects of administering medicine.
UCSF hopes to extend this type of technology to other facilities once it perfects the craft – it already has plans to expand the service to one of its own facilities, opening in 2014.
Isn’t it great when robots give us more time to be human?
Check out this video to see the robots in action:
All images: Youtube video screenshots