The University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) has made a significant announcement that could be a watershed moment for how medications are given to hospital patients in the United States.
In a typical hospital setting, patients are receiving many different types of prescription medications — ranging from mundane vitamins to more intense drugs such as chemotherapy. In the thousands of times medications are given to patients, and with the high number of humans handling the process of organizing and giving the medications, human error is bound to occur. And medication errors can be life threatening — especially if related to a chemotherapy agent.
UCSF wants to make the rate of error for medication administration to be zero. In order to do this, they are using robot technology to prepare and track medications, with the main goal, obviously, being to improve patient safety. In the phase-in of the project, not a single error occurred in the 350,000 doses of medication prepared — remarkable.
Here’s how it works (from the UCSF press release):
Once computers at the new pharmacy electronically receive medication orders from UCSF physicians and pharmacists, the robotics pick, package, and dispense individual doses of pills. Machines assemble doses onto a thin plastic ring that contains all the medications for a patient for a 12-hour period, which is bar-coded.
There are some key advantages this system brings to the workflow of a hospital setting:
— The robots can do chemotherapy dosing, one of the toughest and most sensitive things to do. They can also do complex IV medication dosing.
— There is no touching of the medications by hand. The medications come from the manufacturer, are processed by the robots, and then sent to the nurses and the patient’s bedside in sterile packaging.
— The robots allow for pharmacists and nurses to be more efficient by taking away repetitive tasks. While they do not replace either, they enable a healthcare system already stretched for resources to increase productivity.
— The system costs $15 million, but with the payoff in regards to improved patient outcomes, as well as time saved, the investment should make this endeavor by UCSF more than worthwhile.
Watch this video to see the robots in action:
*This blog post was originally published at iMedicalApps*