Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Human pharmacists replaced by robot in UK hospital

The pharmacy at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, England, has installed a robot to fill patients' prescriptions for them. According to hospital officials, the robot -- which not only fills prescriptions but keeps records as well -- will save the hospital money and its employees time.

What you need to know
• The Musgrove Park Hospital Pharmacy dispenses 160,000 items and 260,000 related supplies every year. Filling these orders is a substantial burden on pharmacists' time.

• The new robot pharmacist uses barcodes to identify and sort medication. This makes it possible for human pharmacists to spend more time with patients or refiling unused medications.

• The robot can also keep records of every item in stock, and is able to check and sort all incoming orders to keep the records up-to-date.

• Two people will double check each prescription before handing it over to a patient. The robot has an error rate of one in 10,000.

• The hospital says that the robot will save it more than 1,200 hours of staff time per year, and that it has already saved the hospital £30,000. This implies that human pharmacists are working fewer hours, rather than devoting all their newly free time to patients.

• Quote: "The new robot has revolutionised the way we work and cut the time it takes to store, find and dispense drugs." - Principal Pharmacist Mark Ashley

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