Robotic pharmacy delivers right meds to UCSF patients

March 15, 2012 8:00:52 PM PDT
A combination of high-technology and robotics is now making sure patients at UCSF get the medicines they need. The new system tracks thousands of doses of medications even as nurses are administering them.

For nurses at UCSF, giving medication to patients is repeated roughly 10,000 times a day. That's how many doses of medication are administered every 24 hours at the sprawling medical center. And if it seems like a lot to stay on top of it is.

"Yeah, depending on what unit you're in, a lot of your transplant patients have up to 20 different meds at any given time," said Andrew Monteyne, RN, from UCSF.

But nurses are now getting help to handle that massive responsibility from a sophisticated, high-tech pharmacy system.

"So the first thing you're going to do to make sure you have the correct patient, is scan the I.D. band," said Monteyne.

In the hospitals simulation lab, Monteyne trains fellow nurses to use a new automated system being phased in at UCSF. After scanning a patient's I.D. band, nurses consult handheld devices to confirm what medications they're supposed to receive and at what time. The medications themselves are barcoded to make sure they match the prescription in the system.

"And that way when you scan the medication, the medication is ordered at that time for that patient for that route and it's a safety check," said Monteyne.

While much of the technology plays out in the patient's room, the chain of automation actually starts miles away at UCSF's robotic pharmacy, recently completed at the university's Mission Bay campus.There prescriptions relayed from the hospital can be filled with machine-like accuracy.

"There's such precision to this automation, that the robot will actually, if there's a ding in the pill or it's not scripted or scored correctly, will actually choose that pill as a defect and will actually throw the pill out," said Sheila Antrum, RN, the chief nursing officer UCSF.

Antrum says the robotic system can also handle multiple forms of medications, like pills, liquid, or syringe fillers for chemo therapy.

For nurses working at UC, the next few weeks and months will admittedly be a learning curve. But trainers say the ultimate result, will be a system with built in redundancy, to help insure every one of the 10,000 doses administered daily, is correct.

"It is definitely going to take a little stress off you knowing that you have these extra safety checks in place and that way you're providing more adequate care to your patients as well," said Monteyne.

One additional component to the automated system will go online later this year. Doctors at UCSF will be able to enter their prescriptions digitally into the system.

Written and produced by Tim Didion


Load Comments