If you are a pharmacist thinking about automating some of your operations, take some time first to consider the pros of cons of increased computerization. Technology can indeed be much more efficient, free from human error, but there are disadvantages as well – technology is not immune to flaws.
Here are some of the pluses and minuses of automation.
Robotic technology can work at greater speeds than people. A standard robotic dispensing system designed for community pharmacies can fill as many as 125 prescriptions an hour.
Humans can make errors, mistaking one type of medication for another, or miscounting the number of pills needed. Robotic mechanisms don’t make these types of mistakes.
Medications are locked inside a robotic system, available only to people who can provide acceptable identification, reducing the chances for theft.
Higher Levels of Service
Robotic systems improve service both directly and indirectly. Because the robotic systems work more quickly and efficiently, fill times are reduced, leading to shorter wait times for patients. This is a direct improvement of service.
Moreover, because the robotic system takes care of dispensing the medication, it allows pharmacists and technicians to spend more time counseling patients, as well as providing other types of services, such as immunizations, health screenings, and testing.
Robotic systems are computers, which still need to be programmed by humans, opening the door to human error. If a person inputs the wrong information, the computer will make an error in the output.
Lack of Uniformity
Different manufacturers produce different kinds of robotic systems, each running on different programs, possibly incompatible with other systems. This can lead to problems if a pharmacy uses a new vendor.
As with all machinery, breakdowns can occur. They can be avoided with proper maintenance, but pharmacies need to have backup plans in place should a breakdown happen.
There is also the possibility of flaws in software, which can cause malfunctions.
Humans still need to refill the robotic dispensing systems when necessary, and so managing inventory well is important.
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