Rosie the deliverer: Lehigh Valley Hospital campus at Cedar Crest, Muhlenberg have high-tech robots fill perscriptions
Visitors on a recent behind-the-scenes tour to see the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) drug robot may have expected a “Star Wars” R2-D2-sized mechanical helper scurrying between patient rooms handing out doses of medication.
Instead, they were presented with a room-sized marvel covering some 420-square-feet and containing 60,000 doses of medication at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, Salisbury Township.
The tour was presented for hospital donors and community leaders by the network’s philanthropy department.
The pharmacy robot is named Rosie, after the robot featured in the television cartoon series “The Jetsons” (1962-’63).
While the Jetsons’ robot mopped floors, dusted shelves and cooked dinner (all at the same time), the LVHN robot stores thousands of doses of medication, filling hundreds of prescriptions a day for delivery to patients on the hospital’s medical floors with virtually no human error.
After a physician inputs a patient’s medication order into the hospital’s computerized system, it is sent to the hospital pharmacy where the robot locates the proper medication, dispenses the proper dosage, labels and barcodes pertinent information, seals the envelope and delivers the package for distribution by pharmacy technicians to the proper patient, in the right place, at the proper time.
Rosie is said to be the world’s largest pharmacy robot. While a number of similar robots are in use in the United States, none are larger than Rosie.
Richard, a similar robot, is in use at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg, Bethlehem.
The robot’s two mechanical arms are what gives it the ability to multitask.
While one arm is packaging medication, placing barcodes on each package and hanging packages on storage pins, the other arm is reading doctors’ orders, retrieving medication from the proper pins and dispensing for delivery to the appropriate medical unit.
Rosie operates 24 hours a day every day of the year. The robot dispenses thousands of doses daily, a task that could not be performed by a human without the risk of error.
Rosie has the ability to prioritize its work. If an urgent medication order is received, Rosie can interrupt the routine, processing and providing the medication for immediate delivery to the patient’s unit.
This ensures patients receive medications only minutes after a doctor places an urgent order.
Rosie is also smart. She stores and picks medication based on the expiration date to ensure a medication does not become outdated. Rosie reports when one medication is being used more frequently so pharmacy technicians can ensure there is always an adequate supply on hand.
“If one of Rosie’s hands malfunctions, she’ll sound an alarm and the other arm can handle the work load,” says John Dinh, LVH-Cedar Crest pharmacy supervisor.
LVHN capital funds were used to purchase the pharmacy robot at a cost of $1.8 million. It was manufactured by Italy-based Swisslog, a global supplier of integrated logistics solutions.
The robot took four weeks of assembly inside the hospital. When completed, the LVHN pharmacy robot surpassed a Toronto, Canada, machine as the world’s largest.