Monday, September 9, 2013

The McKesson Robot Rx and Hospital Prescription Inventory Management

The articles this week focused on inventory management.  The Health care industry always lagged behind other sectors when it comes to using technological systems to manage supply chain processes.  Prescription drug management is one process that was late to adopt technology.  However, the days of humans counting and bottling prescription drugs is over, and for good reason.  An error in inventory management in other sectors results in a financial loss.  An error in prescription drug management could result in serious illness or death.

Prescription drug orders used to be manually counted by a pharmacist and the amount dispensed would be maually entered into the computer.  A error in counting or error in the quantity entered into the system had serious consequences.  To automate this process, McKesson introduced a prescription drup management and dispensing system in the early 2000s called the Robot-Rx, which is manufactured right here in Pittsburgh.  The Robot features an arm in the center of a cyclindrical housing of shelves.  Prescription drug doses are individually packed into bar-coded bags.  The arm reads the bar-code and places it on a shelve.   When a pharmacist enters a drug order and dosage in to the computer, the robot retrieves the corresponding bag from the correct shelf and places and sees the dosage in an enveloped marked with the patient's information.  This ensures that the patient receives the correct dosage, and that the inventory is corrected updated in real-time. 

When it comes to inventory management, the Robot-Rx system places a very important role.  For example, on Robot-Rx can manage prescription drug inventories of many hospitals.  In Pittsburgh, UPMC has a Robot-Rx at 5 hospitals: Shadyside, Presbyterian, Montifiore, Mercy, and East.  However, the Robot-Rx at Shadyside manages the prescription inventory at St. Margaret's and the robot at Mercy services Braddock.  The inventory at these outside locations is always know by the Robot and it can provide the correct drug doses to each hospital it services to meet the inventory requirements.  Automating drug management helps hospitals manage safety-stock inventories.  Also, adjusting inventories for seasonal changes (ex. flu season) is much easier and accurate.  

Is this tpye of inventory management up to par with how companies in other sectors manage their inventories? If not, what are ways to improve inventory management of prescription drugs?

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