Big Robot Pharma Is Here: UCSF Rolls Out Robot Pharmacists

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You don’t have to bow to your new robot overlords, but the least you can do is accept the medication they’re trying to give you. The Medical Center at University of California San Francisco has started to replace human pharmacists with robots to improve service, and results so far suggest that Walgreens and other pharmacies might want to follow suit.

The new system uses automated units called PillPick to monitor and dispense pills alongside robots called RIVA (Robotic IV Automation) handling liquid medications, all working inside sterile environments to prevent contamination. The new regime was started not to cut costs, but to lower chances of patients receiving the wrong medication, according to the Medical Center, and it appears to be working: Not one error has been reported out of 350,000 doses prepared since the program’s start in October 2010.

As UCSF School of Pharmacy dean Mary Anne Koda-Kimble explains, however, this doesn’t mean the end for human pharmacists just yet:

Automated medication dispensing frees pharmacists from the mechanical aspects of the practice. This technology, with others, will allow pharmacists to use their pharmaceutical care expertise to assure that patients are treated with medicines tailored to their individual needs.

Just make sure that you get the robot to actually be the one responsible for making sure you get the right drugs in the end.

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