13-14 OCTOBER 2024

13 Sep 2018

Automation the future of pharmacy

The Department of Health commissioned a report this February, “Prevalence and Economic Burden of Medication Errors in the NHS” which highlighted that 237 million medication errors occur in England every year. Around 71% of these errors - which have the potential to cause patient harm - happen within primary care settings. While stringent measures are in place to ensure medications being dispensed are checked by qualified staff as part of the dispensing process, it is a sad reality that pharmacy errors still occur. With increasing pressures and demands on pharmacy time and resources, the risk of these errors become more likely. Yet, community pharmacies can help to prevent medication errors by installing robotic systems that sort and dispense medication and automated systems which accurately fill and check medication adherence packs.

Last year, Omnicell UK & Ireland launched the Omnicell VBM 200F to accurately fill and check multi-medication adherence packs. The machine is able to identify and validate medication based on size, shape and colour for maximum accuracy. This reduces the risk of human error and provides a valuable safety net for patients. The checking technology on the VBM 200F sets it apart from other filling systems, which only automate part of the process and as a result create more manual checks with the risk of an increased error rate.

In addition, Omnicell’s robotic dispensing systems ensure the ongoing, seamless storage and safe dispensing of medication. Medication is sorted, stacked, stored and then picked by the RDS reducing the risk of picking errors. Staff no longer have to grab items off a shelf that may have been put back in the wrong place when in a hurry.

Wellbeing Pharmacies Group installed the RDS, in their latest branch in Abbey Field Medical Centre, a GP practice which has just expanded having taken on patients from another nearby surgery. The robot works by the pharmacy’s prescription system talking to the robot which stores and dispenses the drugs as and when they are needed. The company invested in the system to drive efficiencies and deliver a better service to patients. Since introducing the system, multiple benefits have been realised. Pharmacy time has been saved and has been reinvested back into patient care. Patient safety has been improved as medication is now stored, stacked and sorted by the robot meaning there is less chance of picking errors. Better management of stock by the robot means there is less wastage, saving money.

It organises stock by the lowest expiry date so that medication is used up first, meaning there is less chance of medication being thrown away. Since installing the robot, the pharmacy has agreed to start delivering medication to their local care home. They won this business as they were able to commit to being able to deliver the same level of service no matter how many other care homes they take on because the bulk of the logistics work is done by the robot.



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