Prescription-filling robot cuts down wait times for customers

Prescription-filling robot cuts down wait times for customers

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Patients are used to long waits at the counter of one particular pharmacy in Baton Rouge, but those wait times are now dropping thanks to a robot.

The Mid City Pharmacy, now managed by Our Lady of the Lake following privatization of state-run clinics and hospitals, is getting customers out quicker because of Kirby Lester. Kirby, a robot, is having a major impact on accuracy and efficiency.

"Once that prescription's entered in our system, if it's one of the top 60 drugs, Kirby automatically fills it and then it spits the drug out right here complete with label and everything," pharmacy manager Adria Kerr said during a demonstration. "All we have to do is check it visually and cap it."

Kerr said techs fill about 500 prescriptions every day. Before Kirby joined the staff, wait times were measured in days, sometimes weeks.

"We've now been able to turn around a prescription anywhere from 15 minutes or less. It's helped us that much," she added.

The machine now fills 50 percent of the pharmacy's prescriptions automatically. It's stocked with 60 of the most-filled medications and pharmacists can switch out certain drugs depending on the season. Barcode technology keeps everything in order and human eyes verify the final product.

"The prescriptions feed directly into Kirby, the techs then check that against the barcode. You can't load anything into here without verifying a barcode," Kerr explained.

Kirby also came with two smaller siblings that help manually count other drugs. It's technology that saves time for pharmacists, too.

"It's very important here because our patients need a lot of counseling in regard to how to take their medicines, in regards to interactions with other medicines they may be taking, so having more time to do that has been a great help," pharmacist Todd Bonaventure said.

Once scripts are filled, they go into special bags that blink electronically so they can be quickly found at pick-up, saving even more time for patients.

"Our patients don't drive themselves a lot of the time. They have to take buses, they rely on neighbors, sometimes they walk here, so having their prescriptions filled quickly - if your cab is running, that's an important feature to have," Kerr said.

The Kirby system is one of many prescription robots now on the market. Our Lady of the Lake purchased one in May and plans to add another at Medical Plaza Pharmacy, which is open to the public.

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