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Automated Dispensing Robots – are they worth it?

Written by Peter Ryan . October 17, 2018
3 min read

Automated dispensing systems, often called dispensing robots, have been a hot topic in the industry for some time.  After slow early adoption the number of automated dispensing systems in place is steadily increasing.

Initially like most I was put off by the high price tag and was skeptical about the benefits.  Having viewed a number of demonstrations, visiting lots of pharmacies using dispensing robots and being involved with clients that recently made the switch, I have spent lots of time weighing the pros and cons of moving to automated dispensing.

The financial case may not be as straight forward as the manufacturers would like, but there are other non-financial benefits that cannot be ignored.  Below is my opinion of the benefits of automated dispensing.

Customer service

In talking with pharmacies that have made the switch to automation one of the biggest benefits they see is the speed at which they can fill a prescription.  This greatly improves the customer experience.  Increased efficiency in the dispensary allows pharmacists more time to talk to their patients about their medications and other aspects of their care, rather than looking for medications.  It also means each pharmacist can fill more prescriptions per hour, reducing wages pressures as a pharmacy grows.

Staffing costs

For community-based pharmacies one of the potential financial benefits of automated dispensing is reduced staffing costs, primarily from lower stock handling requirements.  This is particularly the case when an auto-loader is installed.  In order to make this cost-saving a reality pharmacy operators need to take action and actually make a change to their staffing roster.

Stock levels

Another benefit of automated dispensing systems is reduced stock holdings.  This is due to more accurate information on actual stock on hand, resulting in less chance of ordering unnecessary stock.  This has an obvious cash flow benefit for the pharmacy, with less cash tied up in inventory.

Reduction in expired stock

Automated dispensing systems are effective in tracking the expiry date of inventory items and are programmed to dispense stock with older expiry dates first.  This is obviously a lot more effective than a manual system which relies on staff identifying and picking the oldest stock from the shelf.  Pharmacists can also easily report on stock approaching or past their expiry date, so that obsolete stock can be managed effectively.

Stock security

One of the key features of a dispensing robot is the ability to store medications more securely.  Pharmacies have the piece of mind that the risk of theft is greatly reduced.  Given that all medications dispensed from the machine are tracked through the software, human error and stock variances are also significantly reduced.

Wow factor!

There is no doubt that an automated dispensing robot generates some keen interest for customers, from young children all the way to seniors.  Some pharmacists even go to lengths to showcase their dispensing robot in action on video monitors in their pharmacy.  In an increasingly competitive market many pharmacies are using automated dispensing robots as a point-of-difference.

The choice to move to an automated dispensing system is not an easy one.  As automated dispensing systems continue to become more affordable I have no doubt that the financial and non-financial benefits will lead to more pharmacies adopting the technology.

Would you like to know more? BLG Business Advisers have a strong understanding of the pharmacy industry, with many long-term clients that we provide real support for to improve their businesses. Speak to us about what your goals are for your pharmacy. Take this opportunity to get in touch with us online or call (02) 4229 2211 today.

*This information is relevant at the time of publishing and is subject to change*
Written by Peter Ryan . October 17, 2018
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