Thursday, April 17, 2008

$1.5 Million Robot at Loyola Cuts Risk of Drug Errors

Works 24/7; Can Fill up to 600 Doses per Hour

MAYWOOD, Ill. - A new pharmacy robot at Loyola University Hospital is designed to eliminate the type of life-threatening human medication errors that injured actor Dennis Quaid's newborn twins.

Loyola's pharmacy recently began filling patient prescriptions with the two-armed, $1.5 million dollar robot. The robot places single doses of medication in small plastic bags. Each bag has a bar code that identifies the drug. When the system is fully implemented, the nurse will scan the bar code on the medication bag, along with the bar code on the patient's wrist band. If the computer detects it's the wrong drug or wrong dose, a pop-up warning will appear and the computer will sound an alert.

Hospitals around the country are beginning to use robotics in the pharmacy. Loyola is the first hospital in the Midwest to use the most advanced system of its kind. It's called PillPick,® manufactured by SwissLog Healthcare Solutions.

"We looked at five systems, and this one was the most innovative," said Richard Ricker, administrative director of the pharmacy department, Loyola.

The system is 28 feet long and 13 feet wide. At the front end, a robot arm packages medications in single-dose bags. At the back end, a patient's medication bags are arranged in order of administration and attached to a plastic ring. A card attached to the ring specifies each drug, along with important patient information.

The robot packages 3,200 medications, including tablets, capsules, vials, ampules and suppositories. It works around the clock.

The robot is designed to eliminate the type of serious human error involving Quaid's twins last November. The infants were supposed to receive 10 units per millimeter of the blood thinner Heparin. Instead they received 10,000 units. The 10-unit vials and 10,000-unit vials looked similar, and a pharmacy technician mistakenly placed them in the same drawer.

Another common mistake is to mix up drugs with similar spellings, such as hydrocortisone, which treats inflammation, and hydrochlorothiazide, which treats fluid retention.

A 2006 Institute of Medicine report estimated that hospital medication errors injure 400,000 people per year, causing $3.5 billion in extra medical costs

The robot will not eliminate pharmacy jobs. Instead, it will free up pharmacists so they can spend more time monitoring drug therapy and working with patients, nurses and doctors.

"By improving efficiencies, our robot will allow pharmacists to be deployed to nursing units for better patient care," said Gwen Volpe, RPh., automation project manager.

Pharmacy robotics is one of several major initiatives Loyola is undertaking to improve patient safety. Other efforts include screening all patients for MRSA infections and a barcoding system that helps surgical teams keep track of sponges to ensure none are left inside patients.

"Our goal is to continually improve patient safety in every aspect of patient care," said Dr. William Barron, vice president for quality and patient safety, Loyola.

To schedule an appointment with a Loyola physician, call 888-LUHS-888.


Loyola University Health System, a wholly owned subsidiary of Loyola University Chicago (LUC), includes the private teaching hospital at Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), 16 specialty and primary care centers in the western and southwestern suburbs, the Loyola Ambulatory Surgery Center at Oakbrook and the Loyola Oakbrook Terrace Imaging Center; and serves as co-owner-operator of RML Specialty Hospital, a long-term acute hospital specializing in ventilation weaning and other medically complex patients in suburban Hinsdale, Ill. Loyola is nationally recognized for its specialty care and groundbreaking research in cancer, neurological disorders, neonatology and the treatment of heart disease. The 61-acre medical center campus in Maywood, Ill., includes the 570-licensed bed Loyola University Hospital with a Level I trauma center, the region's largest burn unit, one of the Midwest's most comprehensive organ transplant programs, the Russo Surgical Pavilion and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of LUMC. Also on campus are Loyola's Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center and LUC Stritch School of Medicine. The medical school includes the Cardiovascular Institute, Oncology Institute, Burn & Shock Trauma Institute, Neuroscience Institute and the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is part of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola University Medical Center’s campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of Chicago’s Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 88 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 119,000 employees.