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Will Robots Help Prevent Prescription Errors?

David W. Hodges
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Partner at Kennedy Hodges LLP practicing pharmacy error, medical malpractice and personal injury law
Posted on Sep 30, 2012

Since the figures relating to prescription errors are frightening, more and more hospitals are acquiring robots to help decrease drug errors. According to the National Coordination Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, there are about 1.5 million people injured in the U.S. each year due to prescription errors, and about 100,000 fatalities from medication or prescription errors annually. 

Because pharmacists are human, there is a chance that they will make mistakes. According to a study published in the journal Medical Care, the number of errors a pharmacist makes increases with the number of prescriptions filled after 14 prescriptions per hour. Since there are billions of prescriptions filled every year, there is a huge chance for error. In fact, the Office of National Drug Control Policy reported that about five percent of the five billion prescriptions that are filled every year in this nation are incorrect.

To minimize human error, many companies have manufactured robot pharmacists that can dispense drugs while preventing drug errors. One hospital that is currently using a new robot called PillPick is the University of California San Francisco. The robot has filled 350,000 prescriptions in one year without making a prescription error, and it dispenses over 10,000 doses a day. 

Hospitals in Houston have already been using PillPick robots to handle their large demand for drugs in order to fill prescriptions and prevent drug errors. And over one third of medium to large hospital pharmacies in this nation are now using automated systems to dispense millions of medications error-free.

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