GA safety-net hospital buys robot to speed pharmacy services for city's poor

Spending $2.6 million on a robot to automate your pharmacy is a big investment for any hospital, but particularly for one like Atlanta's Grady Memorial, which has been struggling to survive financially. Still, the robot is buying something which is worth any price--dignity and comfort for the poor and sick, who once waited as much as eight hours to get their prescriptions filled at the safety-net facility.

The new robot, which should be up and running in November, is being paid for out of a $265 million fund raised to help the hospital get back on its feet and improve its services. The robot can stock 720 drugs and process 550 prescriptions per hour, and should bring wait times, which are currently at around two hours or so, down to about 30 minutes per patient.

To manage pharmacy operations, the robot uses air-driven pneumatic tubes and a mechanical arm to grab prescriptions, print labels, dispense pills and check the bottle for accuracy. The bottle then goes to a real, live pharmacist, who makes a final check that all is correct.

To learn more about the robot:
- read this Atlanta Journal-Constitution piece