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University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Launches Robotic Drug Distribution System

PITTSBURGH, May 3, 2001 — In an effort to provide better service to inpatients, reduce medication errors and free up pharmacists’ time for more clinical activities, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has installed McKesson HBOC Automated Healthcare’s ROBOT-Rx®, a centralized robotic drug distribution system that automates storage, retrieval and dispensing of inpatient medications.

McKesson HBOC Automated Healthcare was the first company to offer inpatient robotic pharmacy technology. The system works by a robotic arm operating on vertical and horizontal rails and is programmed to retrieve medications and deposit them into patient-specific cassettes. The system uses bar codes to verify, retrieve and track unit dose medications dispensed to patients.

ROBOT-Rx is programmed to dispense scheduled medicines and first doses, as well as inpatient unit stock medicines. Pharmacists double-check the dosages for accuracy before sending them up to the units. To date, ROBOT-Rx has dispensed more than 45 million doses nationwide without an error.

UPMC Shadyside is first among hospitals of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to install this new technology, which, at Shadyside alone, currently fills approximately 2,500 prescriptions per day. UPMC Presbyterian will soon have the ROBOT-Rx system in operation as well.

“This robotic technology is revolutionizing the pharmacy profession by enabling pharmacists to expedite service to inpatients, thus allowing them to focus more on direct patient care,” said Robert J. Weber, R.Ph., M.S., F.A.S.H.P., executive director of pharmacy for UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Shadyside hospitals and department chair of the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. “These clinical activities include consultation with physicians and nurses on drug therapy and patient education. Additionally, this will help contain costs and maintain inventory control.”

ROBOT-Rx can retrieve one medication in less than 3 seconds and fills approximately 700 doses per hour.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has signed a long-term agreement with McKesson HBOC Automated Healthcare of Pittsburgh, making the health system part of a nationwide network of health care institutions now using robotics technology in medication management.

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