How 2 medication-filling robots saved one health system $2.5M

With staffing shortages hindering healthcare systems, some are turning to robots to help understaffed workers — an effort that's paying off for Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network, a 14-hospital system. 

"We've saved about $2.5 million because we were able to insource some of our medications instead of buying them," Laura Mark, PharmD, Alleghany’s vice president of pharmacy, told Becker's

The system's two IV-filling robots, with the first launching April 2020 and the second in November 2021, were originally designed to combat the national shortage of heparin solution. Allegheny needed to fill about 3,800 to 4,000 IV bags a month but didn't have enough people to execute the task, Dr. Mark said. 

Now, the system's pharmacy technicians and pharmacists have more time to do other work amid drug shortages. The FDA estimates at least 121 drugs are experiencing shortages. 

Dr. Mark said her organization's work with automated systems program Omnicell and its Meds to Beds initiative, which dispenses prescriptions to the patient before leaving the hospital, boosted efficiency. 

"There's additional enhancements that we could utilize for closed loop systems, monitoring discrepancies and [we] can point where the medication is administered," Dr. Mark said. "That is that visibility into that whole usage of medication from where it starts to when it's administered and when it's dispensed."

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