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Automated pharmacy prescription dispensing system, key trends and analysis

  • Types of pharmacy automation systems
  • Pros and cons of using automated pharmacy prescription dispensing systems
  • Key factors driving the growth in the automated pharmacy prescription dispensing system market

 

The technological advancement and increasing use of robotics and artificial intelligence to perform various manual/repetitive tasks across industries have led to an age of automation. The pharmacy automation systems help automate the work-flow of medicines in the healthcare sector. The tasks such as counting medications, mixing and measuring liquid or powder for compounding, updating customer database and inventory management are performed by these systems.

There are five major types of pharmacy automation systems:

 

  • Automated pharmacy prescription dispensing system
  • Automated packaging and labelling
  • Storage and retrieval systems
  • Automated compounding systems
  • Table-top tablet counters

 

The pharmacy automation market is expected to grow at a CAGR 8.2% from 2017 to 2022 and is expected to reach USD 5.38 billion by 2022 (Source: MarketsandMarket).

A pharmacy prescription dispensing system involves processes from receiving a prescription to issuing of medications.  It is an extremely important process in the healthcare sector as all other processes prior to this will be rendered useless if the medication is wrongly dispensed to patients. Thus, the automated pharmacy prescription dispensing system is one of the most important pharmacy technologies in contemporary use.

The need for automation in the pharmacy industry, especially for medication dispensation in hospitals and large clinics stemmed from the complexity of handling large volumes of prescription medicines and the potential hazards caused due to manual errors. In most cases, there is a lot of pressure among pharmacy staff (in lieu of lack of skilled staff) to handle large volumes of prescriptions at a very fast rate. Further, manual prescriptions have varied handwriting, which are sometimes illegible and at times it is left to the judgement of pharmacists to make a decision in such instances.

The automated prescription dispensing system picks, counts, packages, labels, stores and dispenses medication using barcode technology. Hence, pharmaceutical companies are moving towards automation systems for dispensing and tracking of medications to reduce manual errors and increase prescription fill volume, staff productivity, patient safety, access to drug information, improved storage capacity with optimal utilisation of space.

The dispensing robots were first introduced in large hospitals in the 1990s and since then expanded in hospitals and large clinics. However, the growth in small hospitals and retail pharmacies have been constrained due to unavailability of capital for covering high upfront installation cost (over $200,000 in the US). Further, there are strict regulations on the use of automated machines in pharmacy dispensing, which proved onerous for these small hospitals and pharmacies. Furthermore, adoption of these systems is more in the developed countries as compared to the developing countries (especially in labour-intensive countries like China and India).

However, in recent times, with the global demand for new drugs and medicines growing day by day and growth of population are driving up the prescription volumes, this coupled with the government support is driving the demand for automated dispensing systems. The government in the US and Western European countries are providing funds and reimbursement facilities for these types of machines. In addition, the US government spends around $30 million in the healthcare sector to ensure paperless work. All these factors will contribute towards the general adoption of these machines in smaller factions, which, in turn, will further bring down the cost in the near future. Addedly, there is another respite from the technological growth in the sensors industry. The miniaturisation of sensors has led to a reduction in costs of sensors. The cost of robotic pharmacy prescription dispensing systems that use highly advanced and complex sensors is expected to follow the same course.

According to Technavio, the automated pharmacy prescription dispensing system market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 5.16% (2017-21) and expected to reach USD 2.86 billion. Further, North America currently contributes over 50% of the overall market share globally.

Few of the prominent players in the robotic pharmacy prescription dispensing systems market include Becton, Dickinson and Company (‘BD’), Omnicell Inc., Parata Systems LLC and ScriptPro LLC. They compete with each other in terms of product features, prices, customised solutions and services offered. The companies in the industry are focusing on geographical expansion to cater to the global market by expanding their production facilities, production capacities, and upgrading the existing product portfolio as well as inorganic growth through Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) and partnerships.

In conclusion, drugs being one of the main components of medical therapy, form a significant part of the hospital budget. Implementing safe, organised and efficient medication dispensing systems are essential for controlling costs and assuring that the medical prescription is safely followed as requested within appropriate deadlines. The automated pharmacy prescription dispensing system can help pharmacists to provide better patient care with lesser medication errors. Additionally, the role of pharmacists has changed in providing medication as well as counselling to customers.

Televisory believe that with the continued government support and general acceptance of automated machines in retail pharmacies will drive the future growth in the segment.

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