Pharmacy Automation on the Rise

Reports are showing an increase in the adoption of pharmacy automation. This can be attributed to the crackdown on the increasing number of preventable medical errors, which, according to an article on WhaTech.com, pharmacists and healthcare providers are being tasked to resolve. These types of errors accounted for over 400,000 deaths in 2014, third only to heart disease and cancer.

Pharmacy automation systems include the following:

  • Automated medication dispensing cabinets
  • Table-top tablet counters
  • Automated compounding systems
  • Automated packaging and labeling
  • Storage and retrieval systems

Benefits of Automation

According to the WhaTech article, using pharmacy automation systems can prevent nearly 70% of medication errors. Their value lies in facilitating medication distribution, which reduces medical errors and increases patient safety.

Automated systems can also reduce pharmacy costs, which help mitigate rising drug prices and reduced reimbursement.

Automated Dispensing Cabinets

According to PP&P magazine’s State of Pharmacy Automation survey released in August 2015, 92% of hospitals use automated dispensing cabinets to improve safety and security at their facilities. Of those surveyed, 82% rate their cabinets as good or excellent—and 55% of users plan on expanding their cabinets’ capacity over the next three years.

Automated medication dispensing was the largest segment of automation in 2011. It was valued at $2.3 billion in 2011 and is expected to grow to $3.6 billion by 2018.

Budgets

Another reason for the increase in adoption of pharmacy automation is an increase in budget. Of the health systems surveyed, 63% expect their budget to grow over the next three to five years.

As you would expect, the larger the hospital, the higher the automation budget. In facilities with 400+ beds, 49% enjoyed an automation budget of at least $500,000.

The Future of Pharmacy Automation

Most hospital and retail pharmacists believe in the power of automation to decrease medical errors and add value to their business. While a majority expects to focus increased budgets on expanding their investment in existing technology, new and exciting opportunities to adopt automation in areas such as the operating room and outpatient pharmacy will receive consideration as well. Reducing manual work and allowing additional time for patient care will lead to happier workers and more importantly, fewer preventable deaths.

5 Comments on “Pharmacy Automation on the Rise

  1. Curious to see if you have any numbers on how automation will affect the work force (pharmacists, technicians, ect,.) One would assume that technicians will be in less demand? Am I right?

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    • Thank you for taking the time to post. I spoke with one of our pharmacy consultants regarding your question. He told me that although automation does reduce the amount of time pharmacists and technicians spend on repetitive distributive functions, it doesn’t necessarily take the place of those in the workforce. Instead, it can free up pharmacists to do more meaningful work, such as medication therapy management and counseling, as technicians would be able to take over some of the duties previously performed by pharmacists, such as drug dispensing. In addition, it seems the demand for pharmacists and technicians isn’t expected to wane. According to a report by ASHP entitled Long-Range Vision for the Pharmacy Work Force in Hospitals and Health Systems https://www.ashp.org/DocLibrary/BestPractices/HRRptWorkForceVision.aspx, “Shortages of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians qualified for work in hospitals and health systems are expected to be chronic. Technology will not eliminate these shortages.”

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      • I guess there are still shortages in hospital pharmacy but pharmacists are overly saturated in retail. Thanks, good to know!

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