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Pharmacy robots rolled out at Sunshine Hospital

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Pharmacy robots rolled out at Sunshine Hospital

​Two high-tech robots are set to transform the way medications are stored and supplied at Sunshine Hospital's pharmacy.  

The pair, affectionately dubbed Nemo and Dory by staff, can store up to 37,000 medications and dispense 9 packs of medications per minute.  

Western Health is the second health service in metropolitan Melbourne to introduce a robotic medication storage and dispensing system within the pharmacy. 

It's expected the robotics system will increase patient safety, make it faster for a pharmacist to process a patient's prescription, and result in efficiencies in the way medications are ordered, supplied and used.  

"The key benefit of automation is enhanced patient safety, helping to ensure patients receive the correct drugs in the right doses and at the right time," Electronic Medication Management Senior Pharmacist Sarah Dinh (pictured below) said.   

"It also helps hospitals better manage medication inventory, reducing waste and ensuring that essential medications are always available."  

"Crucially, the robots will empower pharmacy staff to deliver better patient care by enabling them to focus on medication therapy management, patient counselling and staff education." 

The robots operate with astounding speed, capable of scanning, measuring, and storing medicines at a rate of up to 120 (round or mixed) to 200 (square) packs per hour, whilst tracking expiry dates at the same time. This process is known as automatic inputting. 

By reducing the manual steps in storing and picking medication, it's anticipated that inventory management will be improved, increasing the likelihood that medication is available when it's needed. 

Instead of a pharmacist walking over to the shelves to locate the correct medicine, the medication is requested from a computer, retrieved by the robot 'picking heads' and sent down a chute, straight to the pharmacist's workstation. 

Robotic systems can quickly and accurately help pharmacists process prescriptions, reduce time spent handling medication and enable pharmacists to spend more time with patients. 

Hospital pharmacists play an important role in ensuring medications are used safely for the care of patients. 

This involves providing patients and staff with up-to-date information and advice on medicines.  

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are embracing the new technology, with many playing a key role in planning and supporting the introduction of the new robots.  

This included giving their new robots pet names.  

"It's made our team stronger and more cohesive, and staff are excited about acquiring new skills and knowledge related to robotics technology," Sarah said.