McKesson Robot Fills Medication Orders for Entire Patient Census in Four to Five Hours

Vol. 9, No. 2
August, 1999

  • Winthrop Opens Filmless Diagnostic Imaging Center

  • Winthrop Complies with Mammogram Quality Standards Act

  • New Device Revolutionizes Treatment of Cardiac Arrhythmias

  • Long Island's First Electric Mechanical Heart Recipient

  • Women's Resource Center Helps Women Navigate the Healthcare Maze

  • American Cancer Society Recognition

  • New Logo Heralds New Era at Winthrop

  • People with Diabetes Learn to Master Buffets

  • Four New Winthrop Board Members Strengthen Leadership

  • Winthrop's Junior Volunteer Program Awards Scholarships to Deserving Students

  • Students Stock the Shelves of the Child Life Program

  • Pharmacy Robot: A First on Long Island

  • A Warning from the Long Island Poison Control Center at Winthrop

  • Asthma and Allergy Family Fair Presented by the Winthrop Asthma Center

  • More than 500 Celebrate Life at Winthrop's Cancer Survivors' Day

  • 75th Annual Meeting of Winthrop's Auxiliary

  • Golfers Show They're "Fore" Winthrop at 1999 Golf Tournament

  • For Long Island Children who don't have Health Insurance

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  • Here, Steven Gerson, RPh, MPA (L), Assistant Director, Pharmaceutical Services, and Joseph J. Giunta, MS, RPh (R), Director of Pharmacy, operate the Robot, Walterx - the newest member of their staff.

    ahe newest employee of Winthrop's Pharmacy is an amiable Robot - Walterx, the McKesson Robot RxTM - which has been filling patient medication orders since completing simulation training in May. At that point, Winthrop became the first hospital on Long Island to implement robotics in its Pharmacy Department. Now, the medication orders of almost every inpatient are filled by the Robot - up to 2,800 unit doses within four to five hours.

    Walterx, the Robot, is actually a mechanized arm moving on a track in its metal-framed, plexiglass enclosed "room," which measures about 28 feet long, six feet wide, and eight feet high. Each of its two long walls contains approximately 400 metal rods, holding individual doses of medication.

    The Robot frees the Hospital's Registered Pharmacists from some of their more routine duties, enabling them to more directly contribute their professional training to the patient care team. Nonetheless, the need for professional and technical human input and oversight has not been eliminated. Registered Pharmacists still review and enter all drug orders into the Pharmacy's computer system, and dispense each patient's initial order. The Robot, restocked daily by human Pharmacy Technicians, fills all subsequent medication orders.

    "The Robot gives Registered Pharmacists the opportunity to better utilize their clinical skills as part of the patient care team."
    Steven Gerson, RPh, MPA, Assistant Director, Pharmaceutical Services
    Pharmacists utilize the Pharmacy's computer system for various clinical checks, which include potential adverse drug reactions, allergies, and duplicate therapy.

    Bar coding makes the Robot smart. The system is dependent upon Robot-produced bar coding - which encodes National Drug Codes (NDC) and expiration dates on each medication package. The Pharmacy Technician labels each patient drawer with the individual's unique Hospital identification number, as well as the bar coded labels. The drawers are fed into the Robot by a conveyor belt. When the Robot scans the drawer's label, it retrieves the needed information from the computer, which tells it exactly what medications to pick and place in the drawer. "As long as the packaged medication is correctly bar coded, there is virtually no chance of a picking error," declares Steven Gerson, RPh, MPA, Assistant Director, Pharmaceutical Services.

    Once the drawers are filled, the Pharmacy Technician loads them into cassettes, transports them to the Nursing Stations, and exchanges them for the depleted drawers. Walterx, through ongoing communication with the Pharmacy's computer system, keeps track of all patient admissions, discharges, and transfers, as well as changes and discontinuations of medications.

    As a further assurance of complete accuracy, nurses check both the physician's order and the labels on the medications before administering medications to a patient.

    "The technology is simple, focusing on bar codes and suction cups, driven by compressed air and vacuum," says Joseph Giunta, MS, RPh, Director of Winthrop's Pharmacy. The suction cup serves as the pick- up and placement device. The Robot is already popular with co-workers in the Winthrop Pharmacy, who are very enthusiastic about its contributions.

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