Is The Healthcare System in Africa Ready for Robotic Pharmacies?

Hamza Asumah, MD

The Robotic Pharmacy is a centralized drug delivery system that automates the storage, dispensing, return, refilling, and crediting of inpatient unit-dose, bar-coded drugs.

By decreasing the chance of human mistake, robotic dispensing equipment assist to protect patients. Pharmacies benefit significantly as well, because these systems can now handle large daily prescription volume needs. Most robotic systems incorporate a number of safeguards to guarantee that the proper medicine is administered to the correct patient at the exact dosage each and every time.

Even at Africa’s largest tertiary and quaternary hospitals, dispensary systems are still wedded to conventional drug distribution techniques, which have shown to be not only labor demanding but have also substantially increased the incidence of dispensing errors in our hospitals over the years. Before we decide whether or not we are prepared as a continent for these, let’s look at some facts.

Photo by Willach

Robotics technology has resulted in very inventive ways to distribute medications more effectively and accurately. These assist pharmacists in filling prescriptions more efficiently and safely. Once a prescription is entered into the pharmacy computer system, the robotic arm identifies the proper size of the vial and then locates the necessary medications by employing barcode reading to detect the position of the drug.

The robotic arm holds the vial and counts the pills as they are placed into it mechanically. The vial is then placed on a conveyer belt, and the patient label, together with the pharmaceutical warning label, is affixed.

Photo by Parmaceutical=technology

Throughout the system, bar code scanning is employed to ensure that the proper medicine is provided to the patient. The pharmacist performs the last accuracy check by comparing the pills in the vial to a computer screen picture of the medicine. The Robot system frees pharmacists from mundane chores, allowing them to be more active members of the patient-care team. This technology enables the Pharmacy Department to provide high-quality treatment while also improving efficiency and patient services.

According to IQVIA, what was a $5.1 billion worldwide market in 2019 is predicted to grow to $7.8 billion by 2024, at an 8.6 percent CAGR. In comparison to the $1.5 trillion global pharmaceutical market, or the projected $300 billion in yearly income from U.S. pharmacies and drug shops, this is a small sum.

Over 3 billion prescriptions are filled annually worldwide, responsible for over 8 million fatalities every 24 hours, and 51.5 million dispensing errors account for over 100,000 deaths (that equates to over 6,000 errors each hour).

The Asian Robotics review reports that, according to Pharmacy Times, the average pharmacy issues around 250 prescriptions every eight-hour shift—more than thirty per hour. Robots are often less costly than pharmacists. Robots, according to Mike Coughlin, president of ScriptPro, cost roughly $12 per hour, whereas pharmacist wages are somewhat more than $18 per hour.

Photo by dreamstime

A tertiary Hospital in Africa may acquire and install an automated pharmacy dispensing system for an average of $200,000 USD. The question is whether we, as a continent, have the infrastructure to sustain systems. Do we have a consistent power supply? Do we have a reliable internet connection, as well as all of the logistics that come with digitizing our healthcare systems? Do we have the human resources to administer these systems in order to assure their long-term viability?

I will love to read your take on this and what you believe the best way forward is for our tertiary and quaternary healthcare centers to adopt this. Do leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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