75th MDG’s Pharmacy Flight reduces patient wait times with new robot

  • Published
  • By Cynthia Griggs
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The 75th Medical Group’s Pharmacy Flight can now fill prescriptions faster with the help of a new automated high-speed medication filling robot called the Parata Max 2.

The medical group funded the robot through the Defense Health Agency’s Pharmacy Operations Division, and can fill, label, and cap prescriptions at a rate of 2.1 prescriptions per minute.

According to Maj. James Holt, Pharmacy Flight commander, the process is not only faster, but it ensures patient safety by using stock bottle and storage cell scanning to always dispense the right drug and the right dose.

Technicians can restock medication into the robot while it continues to run, which minimizes delays. It can store up to 232 completed prescriptions (approximately 116 patients worth) before vials need to be removed to free up space for continued operations.

“The robot’s ease of use, 100% accuracy, and speed with which it can be both replenished and fill prescriptions free up technician bodies to take care of other tasks in the pharmacy,” Holt said.

He said with the robot, they have reduced the time a prescription sits in the fill/check stage of their workflow by three minutes. The total time patients have spent waiting in the lobby has also reduced from a high of 88 minutes this time last year to an average 28 minutes last month.

“Saving patients approximately three minutes per visit, with about 290 patients per day, we’re saving about 3,700 hours per year in the pharmacy,” he said.

Before the robot, a technician would have to locate the medication on the stock shelving, scan the stock bottle bar code, count out the number of tablets, put the tablets in the vial, and then affix the label to the vial. Now, the robot automates the whole process.

There are some medications that cannot be loaded into the robot such as inhalers, injectables, topicals and some capsules; however, “we have optimized the robot to contain the fastest moving medications the robot is capable of filling,” Holt said.

The automated process has also contributed to mission readiness.

“We were able to pivot technicians freed up by the robot to turnaround readiness requests from Guard and Reserve units we support with minimal to no impact on patient visit times,” Hold said.

Holt also mentioned that they have received many positive comments about patient visit times.

“Our ability to absorb quick turnaround deployment and readiness requests while not impacting the patients in the lobby has been a huge benefit that is transparent to our patients,” he said.