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How Will Robotic Pharmacies Impact Pharmacy Technician Students?

Is there anything that epitomizes civilization better than a vending machine? There is something glorious and mesmerizing about inserting a crisp dollar bill and a few coins into a well positioned slot and the “thunk” of junk food plops in the plastic bin. Oh, the wonders of technology. Now certain medications will be available to patients in the same way. How will this modernization impact pharmacy technicians?

Yesterday in the Sacramento Bee it was reported how at “Molina Medical Group clinics in Sacramento, a vending machine, not a pharmacist, dispenses prescription drugs… Molina officials say the big machines make life simpler for patients, but their use has drawn objections from some pharmacists.”

There are several benefits to these drug dispensing kiosks. “Many of the patients at the clinic on Sacramento’s Norwood Avenue are children, and the robotic pharmacy, which has been in place for almost two years, is especially popular among their parents, clinic administrator Veoletta Huerls said… The machines also eliminate delays that result from transferring insurance information from clinics to pharmacies… Dr. Bobbi Underhill, a pediatrician, said only one of her patients had taken that option [going to a pharmacy] over using the pharmacy in the clinic.”

“The kiosks are the size of a large refrigerator. They hold a stock of medications for common illnesses such as colds, the flu and rashes, so patients can have prescriptions filled before they leave the clinic… InstyMeds Corp. of Minneapolis released the kiosks in 2002. They are now installed in about 200 locations around the country” reported the Sacramento Bee.

Some pharmacists are concerned over the popularization of these dispensaries because they eliminate pharmacy to patient consultations. However, I would hope that doctors would inform the patients of how to take these medications. Also, the medications available in these machines are primarily for “common illnesses such as colds, the flu and rashes.” Many of the same precautions need to be taken with over the counter medications which are readily available, so I would think the same risks are at hand.

Technology in the medical field is ever changing and those in a pharmacy technician program in the San Francisco Bay Area need to be prepared. Drives through pharmacies are common place and now medication kiosks are popping up in several clinics. I can’t wait to see what the next new thing is on the horizon.

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