Rx vending machine targets pharmacy

December 10, 2001

InstyMeds has placed an Rx drug vending machine in a Minneapolis physician's office as a pilot study of the aumotated technology.

 

TECHNOLOGY

Rx vending machine targets pharmacy

A prescription drug vending machine being tested by patients in a physician's office is actually best suited to improve accuracy and relieve the pharmacist shortage, according to the inventor.

Resembling a giant ATM, InstyMeds is a vending machine being pilot tested in a Minneapolis pediatrician's office. The unit dispenses 80 Rx drugs using bar-code technology, but future models will handle 500 SKUs. The physician's electronic script is beamed to a server that adjudicates the insurance and then transmits the order to the dispenser. A final printout of the Rx is given to the patient who enters a code and swipes a credit card to dispense the drug.

The first unit may be in a physician's office, but the InstyMeds would really be a workhorse in community pharmacies, according to Ken Rosenblum, a former emergency room physician who founded Mendota Healthcare Inc. In addition to providing the dispensing unit, the firm adjudicates the InstyMeds Rx claims and operates a 24-hour call center to handle any rejections, which takes the third-party monkey off the pharmacist's back.

"Prescriptions are rising 15% a year, but the pharmacist supply is fairly stable, so something has to give," said Rosenblum, whose first job was as a pharmacy technician. "We're trying to combine the advantages of automating routine dispensing with what pharmacists really want to do, a higher level of patient counseling. I see this as the answer to the pharmacist shortage crisis. Pharmacists are overworked, which causes errors. This frees the pharmacist for more time with the patient while more prescriptions are dispensed per hour. It also meshes perfectly with central fill, which is missing an efficient front-end interface with the patient."

The Minnesota pharmacy board has approved the InstyMeds for physician dispensing, said David Holmstrom, executive director. The board was impressed with the bar-code technology's ability to improve patient safety in the physician-dispensing arena. However, if Mendota Healthcare tries to move beyond physician dispensing into pharmacy, the board will probably take another look. "It's been reviewed by the board as a tool for dispensing physicians that's better than having nurse Sally Whiteshoes have access to a whole closetful of drugs," he said.

Rosenblum is looking for community pharmacy leaders or chain drugstore executives willing to open a dialogue about how to make the best use of InstyMeds. He told Drug Topics, "I think we have something that would be of benefit to the profession, and I'd love to set up a pilot to try it in community pharmacy."

For more information, phone Mendota Healthcare at (952) 352-3309; or send an e-mail to info@mendotahc.com.

Carol Ukens

 



Carol Ukens. Rx vending machine targets pharmacy.

Drug Topics

2001;23:44.