Many hospitals have invested in technology toautomate everyday tasks, allowing them to lowercosts and make the best use of the expertise ofstaff pharmacists. Some of these hospitals use PyxisMedStations from Cardinal Health Inc, of San Diego, Calif,to dispense drugs from their pharmacies.
Now Cardinal plans to take automation to the next levelby broadening its product line to include a carousel drugstorage system, an oral solid medicationpackaging system, and a bar codelabeling system, all integrated with itsexisting MedStation and other products.As a result, the company claims itwill have the broadest pharmacyautomation line available, capable ofhandling pharmacy functions fromordering to dispensing. Some of thegoals of the upgrade are to improveservice levels and inventory management,reduce errors, and cut storagespace requirements.
The increasing level of automationtakes hospital pharmacists out of therole of "pill counter" and allows themto play a more strategic role. "It freesup the pharmacist for more clinicalwork, such as interventions or workingwith physicians on care plans," saysChris Buckley, vice president of marketing,medication, and informationproducts for Cardinal Health's Pyxisproducts.
The additional products are theresult of a deal with IntegratedHealthcare Systems Inc, which makesthe technology. They include: the PyxisCarousel, a pharmacy drug storage and retrieval system withAutoPharm inventory management software; the Pyxis OralSolid Packager, which puts bulk drugs into single-or multidosepackages at up to 60 doses per minute; and the PyxisBar Code Labeler system, which individually bar-codes itemsfor verification throughout the medication-use process,including vials, creams, and other products.
These new products address the concerns of pharmacistsregarding inventory management for an ever-growing arrayof medicines, Buckley says. For instance, the Pyxis Carouselsignificantly cuts the floor space needed for drug storage—by up to 50%, according to the company—while improvingsecurity and speeding the delivery of drugs.
Because the new products are integrated with each otherand with the existing Pyxis line, they can work together toautomate functions such as replenishment, Buckley says.When the level of a medication in a hospital MedStationreaches a preset minimum, the machine sends a message tothe pharmacy system. Then, when the pharmacist schedulesinventory replenishment for eachMedStation, the system can determinewhether the drugs are in the carousel,or whether it needs to direct the PyxisOral Solid Packager to package themfrom stock.
The carousel uses "pick-to-light"technology: As the pharmacist getsmedications from the carousel, the systemmoves required medications intoposition and lights the appropriatearea. "Medication comes to the pharmacist,instead of the pharmacist walkingall over the pharmacy trying to findit," Buckley says.
The bar code labeling system averagesabout 30 labels per minute, and isuseful for items that are not bar codedby the manufacturer. The Pyxis systemalso uses bar coding to uniquely identifyitems loaded into a MedStation by atechnician, so that their identity can beverified at bedside, ensuring that theright medication goes to the rightpatient.
Buckley notes that the new productsare integrated with other recent additionsto the Pyxis products, such as theMedStation 3000, the latest in its line of automated dispensingsystems, which was introduced in the fall of 2004.Because many physicians still handwrite prescriptions, onefeature that has proved particularly useful is the ability toelectronically image handwritten prescriptions. The imagesare transmitted through the pharmacy system and areplaced in an electronic queue awaiting processing by thepharmacist. Nurses can view the status of the prescriptionusing Pyxis Connect order management software, allowingthem to keep patients informed and avoid unnecessary tripsto the pharmacy.